Based on AMD's new 790FX chipset, this Gigabyte platform is ripe for use with any of AMD's AM2 and AM2+ based CPUs, including Phenom. The 790FX is a highend chip, yet this board isn't Gigabyte's top-of-the-range product. That honour goes to the GA-MA790FX-DQ6, which has a few more options, including four graphics card slots. The DS5 is for users who want a more affordable high-end platform, and, to this end, it delivers.
For about $300, users get a board with two graphics card slots that support ATI CrossFire mode, support for AMD's highend Phenom CPUs and plenty of useful features including eSATA, RAID, high-definition audio, FireWire and USB 2.0. The DS5 is also well built. It uses solid capacitors, which are more reliable and last longer than traditional capacitors, and it uses ferrite-core chokes instead of iron chokes, which are said to improve the quality of the electrical signal coming in from the power supply. A passive cooler, which includes a heat-pipe, sits atop the 790FX chipset and on the transistors next to the CPU, while the components on the board are well spaced and easy to access during system assembly.
The 790FX chipset consumes less electricity than previous high-end chips, and this is reflected in the size of the heat sink that resides on the chipset, which is small compared to what we've seen on previous high-end AMD-based motherboards.
The 790FX gives this motherboard two PCI Express x16 slots, and the AM2+ CPU socket links the CPU to the chipset using HyperTransport 3 which, when coupled with a Hyper-Transport 3-capable Phenom CPU, will boost the bandwidth between the CPU and the chipset (2GHz). AM2-based CPUs will run at HyperTransport 2 speeds (1GHz).
Running an AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+ AM2-based CPU (2.6GHz), 2GB of 800MHz DDR2 RAM and an ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT graphics card, the board returned a score of 86 in WorldBench 6, the fastest score we've seen so far from this type of configuration. This indicates that the new chipset is fast and Gigabyte has implemented it well.
The Bios allows for the clock speed of the CPU to be manipulated manually, as well as the multiplier (for CPUs that feature an unlocked multiplier). The board supports DDR2 memory up to 1066MHz. Memory timings can be changed in the Bios to reduce latency, and voltage Bios adjustments can be made when overclocking, too. Running the CPU at 2.86GHz improved the system's performance in Adobe Photoshop and WinZip by five per cent and 13 per cent, so it's definitely a reliable platform.
The 790FX chipset is paired with the AMD SB600 'southbridge' chipset on this motherboard, which supplies four built-in SATA ports, 10 USB 2.0 ports, gigabit Ethernet, three PCI Express x1 slots, high-definition audio (with support for up to eight speaker) and two PCI slots. A Gigabyte SATA controller adds two more SATA ports to the mix. A FireWire chip adds three FireWire ports. It's a fullystocked board that should suit demanding gamers as well as video enthusiasts.