Extra performance worth the extra price?
A7DA-S' most important feature is its integrated Radeon HD 3300 graphics
processor & 128MB of dedicated DDR3-1333 Side Port Memory, courtesy of the
AMD 790GX chipset. AMD has taken an already "high-performance" IGP, the Radeon
HD 3200 found in the AMD 780G chipset, and overclocked it as well as expanding
its graphics capabilities, making this the most powerful integrated graphics
motherboard that PCSTATS has tested so far. That's like saying it's the biggest
rubber duckie in the bathtub, just keep the superlatives in
While this does sound like great news
for gamers, who have typically been unable to do any gaming on integrated
graphics platforms at all due anemic real-time 3D performance, it's not a
replacement for a discrete videocard yet. It's also worthwhile to take cost into
consideration if you're considering an AMD 790GX chipset based motherboard.
For around $170CDN / $125 USD / £80
GBP, the Foxconn A7DA-S motherboard is generally
more expensive than most integrated graphics motherboards, which tend to be
clustered in the entry-level segment of the market. That same amount of money
could get you a board based on Intel's P45 chipset, or AMD's 790FX chipset, both
of which will also support dual Radeon videocards in Crossfire mode, although
this time with x16/x16 lanes of PCI express bandwidth each, double what the AMD
790GX chipset is capable of. Of course if you have no plans to Crossfire up
videocards, that's a moot point.
Foxconn's A7DA-S' motherboard is more expensive - and indeed, the reason for the
increased price on all AMD 790GX motherboards - is because of the faster
integrated graphics and on-motherboard memory. Aside from that, there's not much
of a difference between this motherboard and those based on the AMD 780G
chipset. It won't be any better as a HTPC motherboard or give many additional
features that a workstation computer would need, it's really only more appealing
But is it
appealing enough? Despite being the most powerful IGP offering that's crossed
PCSTATS benches, it's still not fast enough to play the types of games that
warrant its enthusiast-level pricing. Crysis might be playable, but so much of
its graphical splendor is lost at 1024 x 768 low quality settings that the
experience isn't as enjoyable. Adding an additional graphics card into one of
the PCI Express slot is a must for anyone who's serious about 3D gaming.
Likewise, Hybrid Crossfire is
still a pointless proposition - buying a Radeon HD 3450 and pairing it with the
790GX chipset still won't yield playable framerates in most of today's games and
is both slower and more expensive than buying a non-integrated motherboard and a
low-end Radeon HD 4000-series videocard.
motherboard offers up dual PCI Express x16 slots which support CrossfireX in
x8/x8 mode if you desire serious gaming performance along with its healthy dose
of HD content output capabilities. Additionally, as the board has four slots of
DDR2-memory slots, it'll take as much as 8GB of RAM - ideal for 64-bit Windows
A7DA-S motherboard is a great candidate for home theatre PC builders because it
does have HDMI, VGA and DVI-D outputs (with HDCP compliance) on the rear panel -
particularly as AMD`s 790GX chipset and its Universal Video Decoder offload
high-definition Blu-Ray H.264/VC1/M-PEG2 content processing from the CPU. Lower
processor overhead when processing HD content generally assures smoother
It also would
have been nice to see an S/PDIF plug on the I/O panel, and a couple USB brackets
supplied with the board. HTPC builders should also keep in mind that cheaper
motherboards based on the AMD 780G chipset will have a nearly identical feature
set when it comes to handling High Definition content playback.
Foxconn A7DA-S motherboard is designed well, but priced a little higher than
we'd like to see it. The Radeon HD 3300 is faster than AMD's previous IGPs, and
many current integrated chipsets from nVidia and Intel, but not fast enough to
compete with a mainstream standalone videocard in most 3D game environments.
Given that, and the price-point of the Foxconn A7DA-S, if HDMI is all you really
need there are other AMD-based IGP motherboards on the market which offer very
similar features while being more competitively priced. Unfortunately, if
anything more than low to moderate 3D gaming is in the cards for you, you`ll
still need to shell out for a decent videocard.
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