The $85 Wonder BoardNot any old board would do to test out these new products. Instead, AMD decided to tap Gigabyte as their unofficial launch partner for these parts. The GA-MA770T-UD3P is the introductory motherboard for AM3 support from Gigabyte. The board is based on the AMD 770 northbridge and SB-710 southbridge. This provides a single 16X PEG slot (CrossFire not officially supported), 4 PCI-E 1X slots, two PCI slots, as well as the 6 SATA connections from the southbridge and12 USB ports.
Obviously CrossFire is out of the question, but it does leave a lot more room for expansion cards. For being as small as it is, the layout really does not feel confining.
While these specs are pretty common with this chipset and price range, what Gigabyte has added to the mix is really setting this board apart from all others in the same category. The design of the board is compact, but it encompasses all of the Ultra Durable 3 features that Gigabyte has pushed for the past year or so. This means all Japanese solid capacitors, lower RDS mosfets, ferrite core chokes, and the 2 oz. of copper (up from 1 oz. in most other motherboards) in the PCB. Double the copper decreases overall resistance in these products, which makes the board more efficient and produces less potential heat with the interconnects in the PCB.
If that was not enough, Gigabyte included an array of good quality integrated peripherals with this board. IEEE 1394 is present, which is not all that common in an $85 motherboard. Gigabyte then uses the Realtek ALC888 high definition audio codec, which is a step or two above many of the less expensive introductory audio codecs featured by other manufacturers. Gig-E is also a Realtek based PCI-E chip, and while it is not as interesting as a Marvell or Intel based solution, it is certainly a whole lot better than most of the less expensive alternatives.
The backplane has all of the necessary connections needed, though the board does not come with the nifty eSATA connection that Gigabyte bundles with more expensive boards.
The biggest advantage that this board has over its rivals is that of the 8+2 phase power delivery system. Most budget boards get by with a 3 phase, or a 3+1 setup. The higher end boards utilize a 4+1 array which provides clean power to the CPU and the memory controller. By going with the full 8+2 phase, Gigabyte is smoothing out the power even more, and increasing the overall efficiency of the power delivery system. By using 8+2 phases, less heat is produced, and therefore less power is wasted overall. This is the identical power delivery system as that found on the $179 GA-MA790FXT-UD5P.
Combine these things with a compact, but surprisingly spacious layout, DDR-3 support, and outstanding build quality. This is honestly one of the most impressive $85 motherboards I have ever worked with. It was able to overclock quite well, the BIOS is well apportioned, and the extras and features included in this low price are seriously second to none. I really hate to sound like an overzealous fan, but Gigabyte has really stepped up its budget offerings for the AMD market with this motherboard.