ASUS' M3A78-T motherboard has a little of something for
everyone. Extreme gamers can take advantage of its socket AM2+ Phenom II
processor support and Crossfire capabilities. Those looking for a nice upgrade
for their existing socket AM2 processor now have HDMI, HDCP and a half decent
integrated videocard at their fingertips.
However as many experienced computer users know, any
component that tries to do too much has to make some compromises. The ASUS
M3A78-T has tradeoffs that are very similar to Foxconn's A7DA-S motherboard that PCSTATS reviewed in
December. The extreme gamer may not be satisfied by CrossfireX running on dual
x8 PCI Express 2.0 lanes and upgraders might balk at the price premium over an
equivalent AMD 780G platform if they are using and AM2 processor.
The AMD Radeon HD 3300 was also a little too hot for
extended benchmarking in PCSTATS' 3D gaming tests, so it's recommended to keep
air blowing in its direction. Once it's got some active cooling the Radeon HD
3300 is still one of the fastest IGPs on the market, however that's still not
enough to play the majority of today's games.
The AMD M3A78-T motherboard was a decent overclocker,
and when paired with the new Phenom II 720 Black Edition processor it
overclocked from 200MHz FSB up to 290MHz. It's difficult to judge the overall
performance of the ASUS M3A78-T relative to other AMD motherboards since it's
the first to be tested with the Phenom II 720, but future reviews should quickly
yield a clearer perspective.
With a retail price of about $173.99 CDN ($145 USD, 95 GBP), the ASUS M3A78-T
motherboard offers a lot for fans of the aging AMD socket AM2 or newer socket
AM3 processors. While there's everything to like about the AMD 790GX chipset,
CrossfireX on this board is unlikely to be used by most. That leaves the ASUS
M3A78-T at a bit of a premium, or it's a motherboard with gaming potential. It
all depends on what you have in store for it. There's no disagreeing that AMD's
780G chipset costs less, also has HDMI output and plays back Blu-ray movies just
fine. The AMD 790GX's Radeon HD 3300 is a little bit faster than the Radeon HD
3200 it replaces, but both are too slow for gaming, and neither Sideport or
Hybrid Crossfire are enough to change that.
If you can find the ASUS M3A78-T for a good deal, and don't mind adding a little
extra cooling to its northbridge heatsink it could very well be the king of the
AMD IGP motherboards - certainly better than what an Intel G45 platform
With the M3A78-T you can run a socket AM2 processor now or upgrade to a
socket AM3 Phenom II and enjoy the benefits of AMDs latest architecture without
splurging on more expensive DDR3 memory. However, when a motherboard tries to
fulfill the roles of an IGP and gaming platform, it's often the case that it
masters neither one.
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