During the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show ASUS launched the brand new M4 Series of motherboards to fully support the AMD next generation AM3 processors. The upcoming Phenom II AM3 processors are able to support up to DDR3 1600MHz memory speed, which means that AMD has finally started to shift away from DDR2 memory. This will be the first memory architecture change that AMD has made since launching the Socket AM2 platform back in 2006, so this is a major change that has been long coming. It will boost performance and lower power consumption, which are two improvements that will be welcomed with open arms.
While we’ve had a number of engineering sample motherboards floating around our test bench in recent weeks the ASUS M4A79T Deluxe motherboard is the first retail motherboard to show up at our door step. The ASUS M4A79T Deluxe motherboard packaging states that it is designed for the new AMD AM3 processor series. It also says that the board uses 100% Japan-made solid capacitors that have a VRM of 57 years at 65C as well as other features like anti-surge protection, Quad CrossFireX, Express Gate and 8+2 phase power design. It is clear that this AMD 790FX chipset powered board is loaded with a ton of interesting features, so let’s open the box and see what it comes with.
The ASUS M4A79T Deluxe motherboard comes with the padded ASUS Q-Shield (I/O) shield, user guide, support DVD, ASUS Q-Connector kit, Ultra DMA 133/100/66 IDE cable, five Serial ATA signal cables, a pair of ATI CrossFire bridges, and a multi-functional module for the case that contains two USB 2.0 ports and a single Firewire 1394a port.
The ASUS M4A79T Deluxe motherboard that we were sent was labeled revision 1.01G and from what we were told this revision should be the initial retail shipping version. The layout on the motherboard is fairly clean considering that it has four PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots. These PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots operate at dual x16, triple x16 / x8, or quad x8 when it comes to link speeds.
The 8 channel audio on the ASUS M4A79T is deliverd by the Realtek ALC1200 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC. The reat I/O panel has what you’d expect from a 7.1 audio solution as well as the Coaxial / Optical S/PDIF Out ports as seen in the image above. A VIA VT6315N controller supports the 1394a on the back I/O panel and Realtek 8112 Gigabit LAN controller is in charge of the LAN. That leaves six USB 2.0 ports, the pair of legacy PS2 ports for the mouse and keyboard, and an external SATA port. In order to use the eSATA port on the back I/O panel as a hot-plug device you must set the OnChip SATA Type in the BIOS settings to AHCI mode.
Let’s take a closer look at the board on the next page.