Gigabyte's GA-MA780GM-S2H mobo
780G in the flesh
The 780G chipset arrived in our labs riding aboard Gigabyte's new GA-MA780GM-S2H motherboard. You can already find this board for sale online, albeit from only one vendor at the moment. Still, it's selling for roughly $100, which is quite affordable considering the board's payload of features and the fact that it's such a fresh release.
As one might expect, the GA-MA780GM-S2H continues Gigabyte's tradition of entirely too long and convoluted motherboard names. The board is built for a Micro ATX form factor that will squeeze nicely into smaller enclosures while still providing a couple of PCI and PCI Express expansion options, including an x16 slot if you want to skip out on the chipset's integrated graphics or take advantage of its Hybrid CrossFire capability.
Gigabyte's board designers have done a reasonably good job with the board's layout given the Micro ATX form factor's restrictive dimensions. Longer double-wide graphics cards will block access to some of the SATA ports, but that's hard to avoid when there's limited board real estate to work with.
At least the board's chipset coolers won't get in the way. Low-profile heatsinks cover the chipset's north and south bridge components with nary a fan in sight, which bodes well for this motherboard's suitability for silent desktops and home theater PCs. Such modest cooling also reflects well on the 780G's power consumption.
Around the port cluster, the Gigabyte board packs an impressive array of video outputs. You won't find any DisplayPort goodness here, but VGA, DVI, and HDMI ports are all present. There's also an S/PDIF audio output courtesy of one of Realtek's swanky ALC889A codec chips. The ALC889A is about as high-end as Realtek's HD audio codecs get; it actually supports DTS Connect encoding that allows users to pass multi-channel audio over a single digital connection.
Firewire and External Serial ATA connectors make an appearance in the port cluster, as well, with the latter fed by the same SB700 south bridge the powers the internal SATA ports. Four USB ports are also provided, alongside onboard headers for eight more. And, of course, there's a single Gigabit Ethernet port. Since the 780G lacks integrated networking, GigE duties are handled by a Realtek 8111C networking controller that happily sits on the PCI Express bus.
One more thing
To coincide with the 780G chipset launch, AMD is taking the wraps off its new Athlon X2 4850e processor. Fabbed on a 65nm process, the 4850e has the same 2.5GHz clock speed and 1MB L2 cache as the Athlon X2 4800+, but with a TDP of just 45 watts.
The 4850e isn't available online just yet, but AMD says the chip will sell for only $89. That's essentially the same price as the existing Athlon X2 4800+, so the new chip's lower power consumption won't cost you any extra. AMD is adamant that performance is consistent between the two chips, as well.