Single page Print

Gigabyte's GA-MA790FX-DQ6
First out of the gate

Manufacturer Gigabyte
Model GA-MA790FX-DQ6
Price (Street)
Availability Soon
AMD may have officially launched the 790FX today, but Gigabyte's GA-MA790FX-DQ6 has been selling at several online retailers since last week. The board is currently listed at $269, which is a little above the $150-$250 price range AMD expects for 790FX boards. Competition will probably force lower prices as other boards make their way to market, but given the initial sticker price, it seems unlikely we'll see the DQ6 slot in at under $200.

Of course, Gigabyte's DQ6 models are typically its most lavish, and the GA-MA790FX is certainly no exception. The board's a looker, too, draped in Gigabyte's trademark turquoisey blue.

With motherboard makers struggling to differentiate their offerings from the competition, Gigabyte recently began pushing the component quality of its high-end motherboards. The DQ6 features solid state capacitors across the, er, board, and Gigabyte says they're much more reliable than traditional electrolytic designs. The company also boasts that the DQ6's ferrite core chokes lose 25% less energy than those with iron cores, and that its low RDS MOSFETs run 16% cooler than standard ones.

We're pleased to see motherboard makers pay additional attention to component quality, but that's only one part of what makes a good motherboard. Layout is also extremely important, and that's where we start to see the DQ6 falter a little. Things get off to a good enough start, with Gigabyte placing power connectors along the edges of the board where they won't interfere with airflow around the CPU socket.

The socket area is also free of taller capacitors that might conflict with aftermarket heatsinks or cooler retention mechanisms. Even heatpipe network that snakes between the board's passive chipset and voltage circuitry heatsinks manages to stay out of trouble.

Gigabyte's expansive cooling solution actually extends to the underside of the board, where metal plates back not only the CPU socket, but also the north and south bridge chips. This level of chipset cooling seems a little extravagant given the 790FX's 10W TDP, but it's silent and unobtrusive, so we really can't complain. The additional cooling may help the DQ6 respond better to overclocking, as well.

The DQ6 starts to run into problems when we bust out the big daddy, Scythe's popular—and surprisingly affordable—Ninja cooler. Towering over lesser designs, the Ninja is one of the largest heatsinks on the market. That creates all sorts of potential for clearance issues, and the DQ6 actually does pretty well to avoid them. However, the board's DIMM slots are quite close to the CPU socket, leaving barely enough room for standard-height memory modules with this monster installed. You can see in the picture above that the Ninja's heatpipes make contact with the memory heatsink on the closest DIMM, as well.

Of course, most aftermarket coolers should have no problems clearing the DQ6's DIMM slots. The Ninja is obviously an extreme case, but then that's exactly why we've included it here. You know, because enthusiasts are all xTr3me, and whatnot.

Layout woes continue as we move down to the DQ6's cluster of Serial ATA ports. Two of these ports connected to an auxiliary GSATA controller (in purple over on the left in the picture above) are tucked out of the way at the bottom of the board. The four orange ports hanging off the SB600 are somewhat more precariously placed. Longer double-wide graphics cards installed in the third PCI Express graphics slot can block access to these, either making them completely inaccessible or requiring the use of right-angle SATA connectors.

Fortunately, it's extremely unlikely that you'd ever have a double-wide card installed in the third graphics slot. The DQ6's first and fourth PCIe x16 slots, colored in blue, are "master" slots that get a full 16 lanes of bandwidth. These are the slots you'd use with single-card or two-way CrossFire configs. The orange x16 slots are only there for users looking to run three or four graphics cards, either on their own to provide additional monitor outputs, or teamed up for CrossFire.

While this x16 slot arrangement ensures that you probably won't run into SATA port clearance problems, it's a poor choice if you actually want to take advantage of the DQ6's support for more exotic CrossFire configs. Having the slots stacked so close together means that three- and four-way CrossFire configs will be limited to single-slot cards, and that doesn't make much sense at all. Single-slot coolers are typically limited to lower-end models like the Radeon HD 3850. However, if you're going to go all out with a four-way CrossFire config, you'll probably want to go with something a little faster and with more memory, like the dual-slot 3870.

Even if you could find a single-slot card appropriate for four-way CrossFire, you probably wouldn't want to stack four of them on top of each other. Such a configuration doesn't leave much room for airflow between cards, and without the back plate exhaust ports found on dual-slot designs, things are likely to get toasty fast.

Redemption finds the DQ6 when we move to the board's port cluster, which has everything but the kitchen sink... and a parallel port. Gigabyte manages to squeeze an old-school serial port into the mix alongside two eSATA ports, coaxial and TOS-Link S/PDIF outputs, six USB ports, and Firewire.