In many ways it is hard not to like the 790GX. It is a product that allows expanded overclocking of Phenom chips without using expensive watercooling systems that were required to gain similar results on older boards. The integrated graphics portion is certainly the hot-rod of its market, and it allows users to play a variety of new titles with good quality. Add onto that the ability to utilize Avivo HD in playback. The 790GX boards support CrossFire and Hybrid CrossFire. The expanded SB750 southbridge does improve overall I/O performance, adds a couple of USB and SATA ports to the mix, and includes support for native RAID 5.
Something else that AMD is quite proud of is how they have been able to trim down the power budget on the 790GX from the slightly older 780G.
The largest factor that plays against the 790GX is the price that most boards are coming out at. When people hear integrated graphics, they think of sub-$90 motherboards. When enthusiast class products are mentioned, integrated graphics are the farthest things from most enthusiasts’ minds. If a user is looking at integrated graphics on their motherboard, they typically are not buying it as an enthusiast platform. Now, NVIDIA gets around this little conundrum by offering a power saving SLI which utilizes the integrated graphics for light workloads, and then revs up the standalone graphics boards when more horsepower is needed. And all of that is handled without having to swap out the video output cable. Unfortunately, AMD does not have this functionality (yet). So selling an enthusiast level board with integrated graphics does not make nearly as much sense for AMD. Sure, the performance improvement with the 790GX and the Radeon 3300 are pretty significant over a standard 780G, but is it worth the extra $50 to $75? When users can combine a 780G motherboard that supports 125 watt processors with the newly released Radeon 4670 for about the same price as a user buying a 790GX board and combining it with a Radeon 3400, we can see where the performance edge will go.
Still, the ability to support regular CrossFire, in addition to ACC, will persuade quite a few users that the 790GX might be worth their time. Luckily for AMD the 790GX boards that have been released so far are truly enthusiast level products with a nice budget price. While Gigabyte and Asus are around the $140, Biostar has a $99 790GX that is not that far off in terms of overall usable features.
Other downsides include the still mediocre performance in I/O operations for the new southbridge (USB and IDE/SATA performance are still lacking as compared to Intel and NVIDIA platforms). AHCI is another issue that they have yet to get around, and will affect AMD’s ability to address workstation markets where NCQ and hot-swappable support are a bit more necessary.
The 790GX (left) as compared to the Asus 790FX board. While the FX has two more PEG slots, the 790GX features 6 native SATA ports. The older FX had to use a 3rd party chip to add on those extra ports.
In the overall scheme of things though, the 790GX is a pretty compelling product. It certainly does everything it promises, and the product I was able to test was solid and packed with overclocking features. Integrated performance is again top shelf, and the added benefit of Avivo HD is a real one. It certainly is a cost effective enthusiast board with the added benefit of ACC.
AMD did not hit a homerun with this product, but they certainly have cemented their lineup with unique and interesting products. As I said, it’s hard to not like the 790GX even though the price point is a bit higher than most would like.