Gigabyte MA770T UD3P AM3 Motherboard Page: 1
Introduction
 
Ultra Durable 3If you're unfortunate enough to have read our previous AMD related reviews, you must surely know by now that one of the major advantages of opting for an AMD Athlon II/Phenom II based machine is it's attractive ownership costs. This of course is a selling point that is slowly being compromised by Intel's new  "Lynnfield" Core i5/i7 LGA1156 processors, which are currently nipping at AMD's top end and soon enough there will be official responses to the value for money AMD Athlon II X2 and Phenom II X2 variants as well. Regardless of this however, the main reason as to how AMD carries this advantage is down to the price of motherboards. Yes, it is also possible to spend as much as £150 on a Socket AM3 motherboard but what we're trying to imply is that for most situations, even a more modest solution would suffice. "Really?", You might be enquiring. After all, cheaper motherboards are likely to have weaker power regulation components, will lack important features and more importantly might not overclock as well. While often true, one could not blindly apply this to every circumstance and I can bet and tell you that such an attitude may offer no gains and a wallet that's a little lighter than it could've been. Today we intend on showing you all a motherboard that may just offer the best of both worlds, the Gigabyte MA770T UD3P.
 
Gigabyte obviously does not need much of an introduction as it is a very well established brand and has had it's fair share of popular motherboard releases. The manufacturer currently has a very wide variety of AMD Socket AM3 motherboards and this particular model sits somewhere in the middle from the low end Micro ATX AMD 740G boards and the fully fledged CrossfireX compliant AMD 790FX boards. When many prospective customers are looking for performance without too many compromises and a good price to boot, it's crucial for motherboard manufacturers to find a means to offer that perfect bowl of porridge that's just right. One could call it the sweetspot. The focus of such a platform amongst the major motherboard manufacturers seems to have returned to one of the first AMD K10 Northbridges to be released in 2007, the AMD 770. It's a basic northbridge with a limited number of PCI-Express lanes but as such it's one that was cheap to start off with and still is. To those that hadn't looked into AMD Socket AM2+ / Phenom (65nm) motherboards, their achilles heel was it's overclocking performance as well as it's ancient SB600 Southbridge and it's less than steller I/O performance. With the introduction of SB700 and then SB710/SB750, the older AMD770 has been given a fresh lease of life and this is exactly what Gigabyte have done. The end result should be a board that allows AMD's processors and a wide variety of RAM, Hard Disk Drives and Graphics Cards to perform at their best.
 
 
Specifications
 
1. AMD770 / SB710 Chipset
2.Ultra Durable 3 Technology with copper cooled quality for lower working temperature
3.Revolution energy saving design with Easy Energy Saver technology
4.Supports AMD Socket AM3 Phenom II series processors
5.Advanced 8+2 phase CPU VRM power design for AMD high-TDP 140W CPU support
6.Dual Channel DDR3 1666+ for remarkable system performance
7.Ultimate graphics performance with PCI-E 2.0 x16 interface
8.Integrated SATA 3Gb/s with RAID function
9.Features high speed Gigabit Ethernet and IEEE1394
10.Home theater quality 8-channel High Definition Audio
11.Patented DualBIOS with dual hardware BIOS protection
12.100% 50,000 hours lifespan of Japanese solid capacitors design
 
A fairly standard feature set but with the inclusion of a couple of  key notes that hint that build quality has not been compromised such as Ultra Durable 3, it's CPU VRM power design, 100% solid caps and Dual BIOS protection. Please turn over to take a look at the motherboard in person.


Gigabyte MA770T UD3P AM3 Motherboard Page: 2
Initial Impressions
 
Our test sample arrived in a fairly typical gigabyte box styled in white, green and blue stating the model name in large letters and further details about it's key features. Opening the box revealed a fairly standard set of contents including two SATA cables, one IDE cable, an I/O Backplate and a User Manual. Just about all that's necessary to get going and for a motherboard of this price I would not expect any more.
 
 
 
The Gigabyte MA770T UD3P itself sports a fairly conventional motherboard layout, albeit with the narrower ATX style of PCB. As you would expect this motherboard has been built to a lower budget and so features which are arguably unnecessary such as heatpipe coolers, more (physical) PCI-E 16x slots, stacked SATA ports are evidently non existant. On paper however, the cost cutting compromises does not seem to have found it's way into the build quality department of the motherboard. With an array of exclusively solid capacitors, dual hardware BIOS, 2 ounces of Copper in it's PCB and an 8+2 Phase power design allowing for full 140W TDP support, technically this motherboard should not be any less able than it's bigger and more expensive siblings when even operating the range topping Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition. This is all quite hypothetical though so please take a gander at the rest of the review as we put Gigabyte's budget AM3 solution through it's paces!
 
 

Test Setup
 
AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition @ 3.40GHz
Gigabyte MA770T UD3P Socket AM3
4GB Patriot DDR3 @ 1333MHz 7-7-7-20 1T
nVidia GeForce 8800GT 512mb GDDR3
Samsung F1 320GB 7200RPM SATA II HDD
Tagan TG420 420W ATX2.0 PSU
 
BIOS and Overclocking
 
The Gigabyte MA770T UD3P features a very comprehensive set of tweaking options within it's M.I.T (Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker) section allowing the user to unlock their processor's disabled cores/multipliers/L3 cache with the SB710's Hybrid EC Firmware and ACC configurations. Aside this, options to manipulate base hypertransport frequencies, HT Link and Northbridge multipliers, Memory Frequency (ranging from 1066MHz to 1666MHz) and all of the crucial voltage options (Vcore, Vdimm, NB Voltage, HT Link Voltage). If I could critisise anything it would be the increments by which the Voltages can be manipulated. With increments of 0.02500V, there is little scope for finer adjustments and so one may find that their overclocked processor may have to run a unnecessarily warm when a slight increase in Voltage would have sufficed.
 
 
 
So how did the MA770T UD3P perform when overclocked?
 
 
 
With our AMD Athlon II X2 250 Processor we were pleased to have achieved a respectable 260MHz Base HTT Frequency allowing for an overall overclock of 3900MHz. The result with the AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black was a little more conservative however, maxing out at 240MHz. Our test Phenom II sample however is known to be a mediocre overclocker and the achieved 240MHz Base HTT was only attainable with a reduced CPU Multiplier of 15x. With both processors, the Hypertransport Link Multiplier was reduced to keep the overall link speed at 2000MHz and below to maintain stability.


Gigabyte MA770T UD3P AM3 Motherboard Page: 3
SiSoft Sandra
 
SiSoft Sandra's benchmarks although rather synthetic offer very crucial figures that help determine whether a system is performing as it should. The program has a set of preloaded results with a number of different hardware configuration, allowing for easy comparison.
 
 
 
Our AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition appears to perform very well indeed in both Processor benchmarks, pushing out figures very close to that of the Core i7 920.
 
 
A figure of around 85MB/s is very much the expected ballpark for a Samsung Spinpoint F1 Hard Disk Drive and so it seems that the SB710 Southbridge seems to operate rather well with today's equipment.
 
 
 
As far as performance figures go for DDR3-1333, these were very much as expected.
 
Throughout the entire series of SiSoft Sandra Suite's benchmarks, the components mated with the Gigabyte MA770T UD3P performed exactly as they should.


Gigabyte MA770T UD3P AM3 Motherboard Page: 4
CinebenchR10
 
CinebenchR10 analyses the speed at which a processor renders a high resolution image and outputs a score accordingly. The test was carried out in singlethreaded and multithreaded mode.
 
 
 
Passmark

Passmark is an "all round" testing suite and so this is a splendid way to test the system's components when mated with the MA770T UD3P. No problems here.
 
 
 
PCMark Vantage
 
Once more, here we have another all rounder of a benchmark. PCMark Vantage however tries to be more relevant to typical system usage and as such isn't quite as "synthetic". Once again, our testbed performs exactly as it should.
 

 
3DMark06
 
Here we enter more GPU specific realms however CPU plays a substantial priority with this particular benchmark.
 
 
 
Race Driver GRID
 
So how well does our testbed game? Pretty well I'd say. Racedriver GRID focuses on the GPU here however at our test resolution of 1280x1024, the Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition does have a say in the magnitude of frames per second.
 

 
Microsoft Flight Simulator X
 
 
Microsoft Flight Simulator X is a very CPU dependant game even in high resolutions. Regardless, the AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black performs very well here even when paired with a GeForce 8800GT 512mb.
 
 
Far Cry 2
 
 
Far Cry 2 is a more recent release that features a very sophisticated benchmark tool, allowing for a fixed set of parameters and conditions for accurate results. Once more, our test setup has no problems in dealing with this particularly demanding game.


Gigabyte MA770T UD3P AM3 Motherboard Page: 5
Conclusion
 
MA770T UD3PSo it goes without saying that the Gigabyte MA770T UD3P ticks all of the boxes that it's meant to and at a rather palatable pricetag. Until recently the AMD Phenom II held the midrange crown as a midrange platform that could sit somewhere between the Intel Core 2 Quad and the Core i7 in terms of Performance/£ and it's added perks such as future upgradability prospects combined with lower ownership costs. The introduction of Intel Core i5 has changed the game by offering performance around that of the Phenom II X4 900 series processors and the Intel Core i7 LGA1366 processors but without the excessive motherboard costs. This does not bode well for AMD as it's Phenom II X4 955 and 965 processors now have much stiffer competition in their price brackets.
 
This however is where motherboards such as the Gigabyte MA770T UD3P come in. For an AMD alternative to be a competitive proposition, overall ownership costs must be lower and at a couple of pounds shy of £70 offers a fair saving over similar Intel P55 motherboards. The question that remains to be answered however is whether it's a particularly good idea to opt for cheaper and less feature rich motherboard as the base of your new high end system?  After all, it maxed out at just 240MHz HTT Base Frequency with an AMD Phenom II processor, it lacks much in the way of VRM cooling and you can pretty much forget about ATi CrossfireX seeing that it only has a single physical PCI-Express 2.0 16x slot. Does any of this matter though? A large proportion of AMD's processor range offer a fully unlocked CPU multiplier, the motherboard remained stable even with it's existing cooling solutions when met with an overclock and with a new lineup of ATi and nVidia Direct X 11 graphics cards round the corner with the potential to perform up to twice as fast as today's best single core GPUs, who really needs Crossfire or SLI? Our tests found that Hard Disk performance was not restricted by the SB710 and the top of the line Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition performed exactly as it should. You needn't worry about memory limitations either as the 770T UD3P supports DDR3 up to 1666MHz (at stock CPU speeds)  at voltages at and above the JEDEC specification of 1.500V.
 
So is this motherboard worth considering? Yes, most certainly. As far as Socket AM3 motherboards are concerned, this is arguably the sweetspot in terms of features relative to price. It's debateable as to whether the Intel Core i5 750 and a base spec Intel P55 motherboard is worth it's slightly higher ownership costs. The answer is more clear for overclockers who are willing to save up for a little longer in order to opt for a platform that allows for a higher overclock. After all, it has already become quite evident that the Intel Core i5 750 is quite capable of reaching 4.0GHz stable, while such a ceiling remains to be the upper end of stable and air cooled overclocks with AMD's current offerings. Combined with the Core i5 being a faster processor "clock for clock", LGA1156 seems to be the way to go for the target audience in question. What if you don't have that much to spend though and what if you aren't so keen an overclocker? Well in that case, the general concensus is that AMD's Socket AM3 is not so bad a proposition and in order to meet this criteria, one needs a quality motherboard for under £80...and cue the MA770T UD3P. Well done Gigabyte.
 
 
The Good
- Excellent performance
- Fully laiden BIOS
- SB710 Chipset for "Core Unlock" ability
- Overclocks as expected for a board of it's class.
 
The Mediocre
- AMD 770 chipset offers no ATi CrossfireX
- Up to £10 more than other branded AMD770/SB710 boards, however they remain unproven
 
The Bad
- None
 
 
 
Thanks to Gigabyte for providing the board for review. Discuss this review in our forums.