ASUS M4A785TD-V motherboardASUS seeded us with a retail 785G motherboard in the form of the M4A785TD-V EVO.
Part of the new Xtreme Design range, the board supports all AM3 CPUs and uses the AMD-approved combination of RS785G northbridge and SB710 southbridge. The layout looks clean and elegant on first glance, and the board is aimed at the enthusiast on a budget.
An 8+2-phase power supply (two for the memory and HT) and high-quality capacitors should provide decent overclocking. Trotting out the specs, ASUS reckons the VRMs are good for 57 years of operation at 65°C. Over-engineering, perhaps? A 128MB DDR3 SidePort memory module is included on this model and it will boost IGP performance.
Being of the performance ilk, four DIMM slots take in DDR3 memory, right up to 1,800MHz. A number of AMD-optimised DDR3 kits have recently hit the shelves but any two modules will do.
Another EVO feature is GPU NOS. The name intimates some serious overclocking. ASUS uses a dedicated sensing circuit for the task, and it auto-overclocks when load is detected. Users can set their own limits via an OS-based GUI, too, along with toggling voltages for extra performance. An aside, the heatsink looks kind of cool.
The ports and sockets around the SB710 southbridge area look a little strange. The IDE port would normally be positioned near the 24-pin connector, farther up the board, but there's no space for it. Its positioning doesn't interfere with the white-coloured PCIe slot, though.
A sixth SATA port, coming from the southbridge, is available. We like the fact that it's routed through the back as an eSATA port.
We'd normally expect to find reset and clear-CMOS buttons on an enthusiast board; they're conspicuous by their absence.
The slot arrangement is good. Board design is such that the primary slot runs at x16 at all times. The lower slot operates at x4 when in CrossFireX mode. That's not a huge problem as the 2.0 spec provides plenty of bandwidth for mid-range cards.
A further x1 PCIe slot and three PCIc should keep expansion opportunities open for most users. Features-wise, the M4A785TD-V is loaded with FireWire, 8-channel HD audio, and Gigabit LAN, as well as heat-dissipating copper in the PCB.
We expect users to take advantage of the IGP and, on this board, overclock it some. Dual digital displays can be driven concurrently, so HDMI and DVI make sense. External connectivity-wise, the ASUS board is strong, encompassing FireWire, eSATA, and lots of USB. The chipset supports a total of 14 ports, of which two are USB1.1 - fine for keyboards and mice. ASUS 'limits' this to 12 USB2.0.
Observing a little closer and thinking about an HTPC, a coaxial S/PDIF would be nice, as would Dolby Digital Live or DTS Connect support from the VIA VT1708S HD audio codec.
ASUS has loaded the M4A785TD-V EVO with a number of value-adding features which, whilst good, kind of go against the grain of a cheap and cheerful IGP board. Online pricing shows it to be available for £70, including VAT - a price that's competitive given the feature-count.