Power Consumption and Conclusions
Power consumption for both motherboards was extremely low due mainly to not using a PCI-E graphics card as well as an energy efficient processor and chipset. This should be a good indicator for some of the possible uses for these types of motherboards. One use that comes to mind is setting up a home theater PC. With lower power consumption and on board graphics, we would definitely consider this type of board for an HTPC setup for playing Blu Ray movies in 1080p HD.
After all our testing and benchmarks were completed, a couple things really stood out about these two motherboards. When we were testing “apple to apples” with the M3A78-T and A790GXM-AD3, almost every benchmark told us these boards were very similar performance wise. But, when you throw in the differences between using DDR2 and DDR3 memory, the game changed significantly to the AM3 board’s favor. This wasn’t unexpected though because of the bandwidth and latency gains we received using DDR3 memory with the ECS A790GXM-AD3.
But, this review was to evaluate the ASUS M3A78-T and see if it could perform on par with it’s newer AM3 counterpart. Our benchmark results concluded and verified it could stay step-for-step with the AM3 board if you used the same hardware excluding DDR3 RAM. What does that mean for the end user? It comes down to price, attempting to “future proof” your PC setup, and the user’s overall needs for their system. The pricing between these two boards at the time of this review was $109.99 ($94.99 after MIB) for the A790GXM-AD3 and $138.99 for the M3A78-T. What’s also important to note that ASUS has actually replaced this particluar model with a newer version called the M4A78-E, which is selling right now for $129.99 at Newegg.
After you take the pricing into account (as well as how much it will cost for DDR3 RAM versus DDR2 RAM), end users will need to consider the risk of adopting early revisions of AM3 motherboards, which are pretty new and aren’t “field tested”, or going with AM2+ boards that have had time to mature and polish all of its features. Honestly, the AM2+ platform should be a non-factor by early next year, so moving to the AM3 might be a better choice for future proofing your system.
The feature set for the M3A78-T is pretty extensive and directly links to the chipset used with this motherboard. The AMD 790GX chipset supports up to 5200MT/s HyperTransport 3.0 interface speed and dual PCI-E x16 graphics, which should entice budget gamers looking to upgrade their boards. This chipset supports ATI Hybrid CrossFireX technology as well, which enables the chipset’s integrated graphics processor and a separate video card to operate simultaneously with combined output during gaming. This is a huge plus for those on a tight budget who want to increase their frame rates during gaming. Lastly, this board also can handle quad-Crossfire that allows 4 GPUs to work together for high-definition gaming.
While the M3A78-T can be used for gamers, it also has the flexibility to support HTPC users. The onboard HDMI port can easily handle HD 1080p Blu Ray movies and is also flexible enough to support other digital and analog interfaces like DVI and D-sub onboard.
Another trend we are seeing with motherboards are improvements in the power efficiency department and the M3A78-T is no different. ASUS uses a 4+1 phase power design that takes advantage of independent power to core components that provide fast transient response and stability for the CPU under heavy loads.
Lastly, one of the best features I’ve never had the pleasure of using was the Express Gate feature. Once installed, this feature automatically boots up when you power on your system. It basically creates a separate gateway to do web surfing, e-mail, Skype, and instant messaging without having to boot your primary OS. While it doesn’t give you access to your primary hard drive, it does allow for a separate USB drive to be used for storage.
Pricing and Availability
At the time of this review, Newegg doesn’t not have the M3A78-T in stock. In fact, they have a small notification that simply states “Replaced by M4A78-E”. We will confirm that this board is discontinued with ASUS and amend the review once we receive a response. When it is available, it is selling for around $138.99, depending on which vendor you use to purchase hardware.
We’d like to thank our friends at ASUS for providing the M3A78-T for our review today. Using this board with the 790GX chipset was an absolute pleasure and AMD has truly made some giant strides in the integrated graphics arena. There are many reasons and uses for onboard graphics as a primary video solution, and with the integration of HDMI and HD 1080p support, I can see many HTPC users foaming at the mouth to upgrade their current home theater setups with this technology.
I think the only issue that raised a red flag during our review was the actual viability of the platform past this year. AM3 is replacing (or some might say it has replaced) AM2+ so I’m not sure if it is a good option for upgrading at this point and time. The performance is still there due to the 790GX, but most vendors and consumers are moving to AM3 and DD3 for future upgrades.