Pop goes the MOSFET

Our top performance board in the roundup - thanks to its SidePort memory and optimum layout - is the JW-RS780UVD-AM2+ from J&W. They have a note at the bottom of the product page stating this board does not support 125W TDP processors, and again in the specifications section. We consider this acceptable and for the record, their board failed on power-up with the 9850E. J&W informed us that they will be producing a new five-phase PWM board in an ATX form factor for the performance oriented crowd in May. In the meantime, they have shipped us a new board to complete testing. For a “new” player in the market, we have to admit their customer service and support has been impressive.

The next board up is our all-around feature favorite product from Gigabyte, featuring a four-phase PWM design. The GA-MA78GM-S2H product page does not mention support issues with the 125W TDP processors. It actually states that the board supports the Phenom FX/Phenom processors, leading one to believe all is well. The specification page does not mention any support problems with the 125W TDP Phenoms. It is not until you get to the CPU Support List page that you find out the 9850E has not been qualified on this board, and the same goes for the other quad-core B3 stepping processors. This leaves the user in a quandary as to actual support for the new Phenoms, and hopefully Gigabyte will update the product pages quickly. The board actually runs the B3 stepping fine with the F3E BIOS or higher. However, this board failed after a short overclocking session with the 9900/9850BE processors. It lasted the longest of the boards we tested with either processor and will still power on, but it will no longer POST. Interestingly enough, Gigabyte has qualified the 125W TDP 6400/6000+ X2 processors on this board. We had a new board arrive today and will complete testing on it over the weekend before we subject it to any further overclocking tests with these processors.

We moved to the ASUS M3A78-EMH HDMI board that features a three-phase PWM design. The product page states that the board supports the latest AMD Phenom quad-core processors. Well, guess what: it lasted a mere two seconds with the latest and greatest Phenom processor and about 10 minutes with the 6400+ X2. The specification page is blank so we moved on to the QVL page and found it only contained qualified memory modules. We thought to ourselves, "What would Nancy Drew do?" Low and behold, we went to the download page for the board and off to the left was a box that featured links to CPU Support, Specifications, Product Comparisons, FAQ, and Forum. Sure enough, we clicked on the CPU Support link and found the information we were searching for earlier. Turns out that the Phenom 9100e, 9500, and 9600 are the only qualified Phenom models, and the 125W TDP 6400+ X2 is missing in action as well. This is a long way from the marketing slogan proclaiming support for the latest Phenom quad-core processors.

Next up is the ECS A780GM series of boards that feature ATX and uATX form factors with a three-phase power design. The product and specification pages list AMD Phenom support. Clicking on the CPU support link off to the left brings up one of the more detailed CPU support pages we discovered. However, the 9850BE and 6400+ X2 are both missing. You can guess the outcome by now; while our board is not completely dead, it is on life support and pretty much circling the drain. We were able to shut it down before a complete black out, but the board is no longer stable at any setting.


We stopped testing the 125W TDP processors at this point, although we could have continued with the boards from ASRock, Jetway, and Biostar. Based on their PWM designs, we are sure that each board had a high probability of failure with the 125W TDP processors. In each case, the product pages list support for the full Phenom or X2 processor series and it is not until you go to the CPU support pages that you realize 125W TDP processors are not supported.

AMD also has a very useful tool that provides information about Phenom compatibility across a wide range of motherboards that AMD has tested. None of our test subjects has been formally approved by AMD for use with the 125W TDP processors in the X2 or Phenom product families. We found this interesting as Gigabyte qualified the board for use with the 6400+ X2 but the Athlon X2 compatibility tool does not agree. So who is right? We will find out shortly.

What did we learn? Do not trust the product information and specification pages in the vast majority of cases. The CPU support pages tell the real story - some better than others, but in all cases the 125W TDP processors are not officially supported by current 780G motherboards (4/25/08 update - Finishing 100 hour test results with the 9850BE and three vendor qualified boards have passed to date with proper cooling of the PWM area). It just takes some effort to find that information (except for J&W) and this is something we do not think the user should have to do. In our opinion, the product pages lead the user down one path while the CPU support pages (which are sometimes difficult to find) tell another story. At this point, it pays to read the fine print or hope your favorite review site is able to provide this information.

Personally, I was very disappointed in the type of information available on the websites and in the product manuals. Sure, a manufacturer can hide behind the CPU support lists, but the information provided on the product description and specification pages would lead the majority of users to think using any Phenom or X2 processor is perfectly acceptable when it is not. One would think the manufacturers would be especially sensitive to this problem unless they just enjoy the RMA process and pissed off customers. This especially holds true when purchasing the board from an e-tailor or local shop. Unless the user does some research, the current information available in a product ad or on the box does not tell the rest of the story.

Our stand at this time with the manufacturers is they need to ensure the CPU support page is clearly identified, readily available on the product information page, and it needs to be updated on a regular basis. We also request the CPU support page be linked from the processor support information described in the overview section. If this is not possible then the processor information should be asterisked with a note to check the CPU support page or state what processors are not supported in the short term. Trying to address the channel and retail markets is another can of worms that we will look at later.

We are hoping the short-term fixes occur quickly over the next thirty days; if they do not, well, the product will not be eligible for an Editors' Choice award and you can be certain we will mention processor support in the review. In fact, if a processor is missing from the list we will assume it is not supported and will report it as such from this point forward.

AMD 780G Goes Boom Thoughts about the 790i...
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  • Lashek - Wednesday, April 23, 2008 - link

    Reviewer Product Review

    Manufacturer Response:Those are unusual issues, especially the CPU multiplier adjusting. We do have a new BIOS that has just been released (www.xfxforce.com) also feel free to contact myself at Neweggsupport@xfxforce.com or the XFX Support staff at www.xfxforce.com / 800-880-3225 so we can help out
    SUPPORTWindows Vista32/64 Realtek Audio (R1.90) support files for product MB-N790-IUL9 have recently been updated. (Friday, April 18, 2008)SUPPORTWindows XP32/64 Realtek Audio (R1.90) support files for product MB-N790-IUL9 have recently been updated. (Friday, April 18, 2008)SUPPORT790i SLI Bios Update Nvidia (P04) support files for product MB-N790-IUL9 have recently been updated. (Monday, April 21, 2008)SUPPORT790i SLI Bios Update XFX (P04) support files for product MB-N790-IUL9 have recently been updated. (Monday, April 21, 2008)HELP DESKXFX reply to ALL messages via the ticket system. We send automated emails to advise if we have new information available, due to the nature of email we cannot guarantee delivery of and so recommend that you log in regularly.HELP DESKXFX reply to ALL messages via the ticket system, but Due to unprecedented demand of our support, we are currently experiencing longer waiting times than normal. Please allow upto 48 Hours for an initial response. Alternatively please use our LIVE HELP system, this is available from the drop down box next to your registered product. Thank you for patience, regards XFX SUPPORT TEAM



    Reply
  • Lashek - Wednesday, April 23, 2008 - link

    Reviewer Product Review
    Lashek Tech Level: somewhat high Ownership: 1 month to 1 year This user purchased this item from Newegg.com 4/15/2008 5:41:49 AM memory problems

    Pros: superior porformace ,and bios menus 4 u overclockers .and easy setup

    Cons: a) CPU multiplier likes to changes at will, causing an inability to POST after changing BIOS options. (Problem is likely linked to bad NVIDIA base code). b) Poor memory read performance above 475FSB unless you enable “P1” and “P2” which NVIDIA refuses to document operation of or provide information about. c) EVGA/XFX (NVIDIA reference design) lacks support for tRFC tuning - high density DDR3 configurations often refuse to work unless the module SPDs are tuned from the manufacturer. (This makes them needlessly slow in low-density configurations.) d) The chipset does not do a very good job of balancing read vs. write priorities with respect to memory access - copy scores lower than X38/X48. e) Regardless of what NVIDIA says, we think PCI-E 2.0 (and 1.x) implementation is still better on Intel’s Express chipsets - give us SLI on Intel to prove it!!! f) Possible problem with NVIDIA reference design: sustained overclocked operation at >~1.9V for VDIMM may cause critical failu

    Other Thoughts: buy asus striker Extreme board instead! Manufacturer Response:Those are unusual issues, especially the CPU multiplier adjusting. We do have a new BIOS that has just been released (www.xfxforce.com) also feel free to contact myself at Neweggsupport@xfxforce.com or the XFX Support staff at www.xfxforce.com / 800-880-3225 so we can help out
    Reply
  • recneps77 - Friday, April 11, 2008 - link

    So was the Gigabyte stable @ stock?
    Because I learned of all this AFTER my cpu had shipped..
    its a 9750, 125W.
    The board is back ordered, so I can cancel it if need be, but its gonna cost me a 'restocking' fee to exchange the cpu (such a rip).

    Can anyone confirm this for me?
    Gigabyte's site lists all of the B3's under supported, except the 9850 says 'unofficially supported'
    Reply
  • bobaboo - Sunday, April 13, 2008 - link

    it will run it just fine
    Reply
  • Visual - Thursday, April 10, 2008 - link

    [quote](4/9/08 Update - We will post an update to this article on 4/10/08 that addresses problems/concerns raised in this story, working with Gigabyte / ASRock on 9850BE certification tonight)[/quote]
    I have been waiting anxiously for the update since yesterday... If I'm not hallucinating this text used to say the update will come on 4/9 and it now says 4/10, and the day is almost over...

    I'm starting to wonder, maybe the update is up somewhere, linked between the 3.14-th and sqrt(-1) page of the article and I just didn't notice it...

    LOL yeah, I know I'm not helping any, and I apologize for being so impatient. Of course, take your time and do things the proper way instead of rushing them.
    Reply
  • amdmobo - Thursday, April 10, 2008 - link

    Hi, you are not alone. I have been waiting the update since 2 days ago. Yeah, they delayed the date I guess. Reply
  • kzi - Thursday, April 10, 2008 - link

    I'd like to run such a 780g board with two monitors attached to it.
    So I hope you don't forget to look how good the display quality is in such a configuration.
    Reply
  • insider - Thursday, April 10, 2008 - link

    "check gigabytes website the 9850 is now supported on their cpu list for 780g platform.Bios f3"


    can somebody tell me please whether it's safe to run a Phenom 9850 on this MoBo or not ???
    Reply
  • Sb1 - Thursday, April 10, 2008 - link

    I appreciate Gary and AnandTech for publishing this article.
    When there are problems I think it's good that they get disclosed. It helps the consumers make more informed decisions and in turn shows manufacturers that they need to address the issue or issues. If they do not then people can take their business elsewhere. Because most people don't have time to read up on multiple forums, even if they are into technology. If they handle it correctly and fess up, it may still p**s you off but you can give them the benifit of the doubt because you know that there are problems in most everything. It's how it is handled that make up peoples real opionions over time of a company.

    I was thinking of purchasing that Gigabyte 780G based motherboard and build it for a friend and possibly for myself once I sell two other PC's. Don't know if he wanted the newest 125w quad cores, but if he did and there were problems I probably would of not bought anything from Gigabyte once I found out on forums that they did not properly update their website for CPU support on this and the 680i based ones I luckily came across in the last few days. Now I am going to look elsewhere. I just bought an Abit IP35 Pro and was seriously considering a Gigabyte board, told my friend to get one for his Q6600 last summer and he did.
    Reply
  • duron266 - Thursday, April 10, 2008 - link

    click to view
    Reply

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