Asus' M4A785TD-V EVO motherboard
The first 785G-based motherboard to hit the Benchmarking Sweatshop was Asus' M4A785TD-V EVO. And it doesn't look anything like an integrated graphics motherboard. For starters, the EVO is a full-size ATX model with a larger footprint than the Micro ATX designs generally associated with integrated graphics. Asus has put the extra board real estate to good use, dropping in a couple of physical PCI Express x16 slots to support traditional two-way CrossFire configs. The top (blue) slot gets a full 16 lanes of bandwidth, while the bottom (white) slot has to make do with just four. Keep in mind that these are PCIe 2.0 lanes, though; a gen-two x4 link offers just as much bandwidth as a gen-one x8 link.
With careful color-coordination, the EVO is certainly more stylish than most low-end mobos. The blue slots and ports nicely play off the brown PCB, although I can't help but wish Asus had gone with a different base color. You can call the shade auburn, mocha, or chocolate, but it still looks like poo brown to me. Or worse, Zune brown.
Under the EVO's brown veneer lurks a circuit board layered with two ounces of copper to reduce impedance and aid heat dissipation. Fancy solid-state capacitors are used throughout, as well. That's a given on mid-range and high-end motherboards, but it's considerably less common among the EVO's sub-$100 rivals. The EVO's 8+2-phase power solution is also considerably more robust than we're used to seeing on budget fare. Curiously, though, the board only has a four-pin auxiliary 12V power connector.
The EVO capitalizes on the 785G's Socket AM3 aspirations with four DDR3 memory slots and the necessary BIOS multipliers to run 1600MHz DIMMs without overclocking the system's CPU or base clocks. As with most AMD-based motherboards, the DIMM slots are close to the socket, which can create clearance problems for those looking to pair tallish memory modules with aftermarket CPU coolers that fan out from the socket.
Otherwise, the EVO is devoid of niggling layout or clearance issues. Lengthy PCI Express graphics cards won't obscure access to the IDE or Serial ATA ports, and you can even pop a longer expansion card into the top x1 slot without interfering with the north bridge cooler.
Although it might have been nice to get a DisplayPort output, I can find little fault with the EVO's port complement. There's a little something for everyone here, including a PS/2 keyboard port that, despite its purple hue, also works with mice. However, I'm not crazy about the fact that the audio outputs are powered by a VIA audio codec that doesn't support real-time DTS or Dolby Digital Live encoding. Bummer.
As one might expect from an Asus motherboard, the EVO's BIOS is loaded with tweaking and overclocking options. There's plenty of range for the sort of modest overclocking one might attempt with an integrated graphics board, and Asus makes setup easy by allowing users to enter most clock speeds and voltages manually rather than forcing them to scroll through expansive lists of available options.
Somewhat disappointingly, the BIOS doesn't include independent control over the processor's north bridge multiplier. Asus makes up for this omission by offering more robust fan speed controls than we're used to seeing. The automatic fan speed control options on Asus motherboards are generally limited to three pre-defined profiles. With the EVO, however, one has control over not only the starting CPU fan voltage, but also the temperature triggers that dictate when the fan spins up and when it's cranked to full speed.