The first question that probably comes to mind when we look at the ECS A785GM-M is, "What’s different in the 785G chipset from the slightly older 780G chipset?" Well, there are a few signficant differences and improvements, so let’s examine that briefly before we jump right into the A785GM-M itself. There are essentially two major differences: socket support (and memory by extension as well), and integrated graphics of the RV620 (HD 4200).
With Intel’s LGA775-based G45 a resonable alternative, it isn’t a graphics powerhouse. Nividia’s 9300/9400 certainly is quite an improvement from there. So where does that leave the AMD 785G? Quite simply, while the low cost can be enticing, it is the support for the latest Phenom II and Athon II processors that makes the 785G formidable. As we saw in our recent review of the Athlon II X4 620, it is an impressive budget chip can overclock like a cheetah and approach the stock performance of a flagship X4 965 Black Edition for over $100 less. Or if you do prefer something more robust, dropping a Phenom II into a 785G-based motherboard can make for an awesome gaming rig on the cheap, provided you include a discrete graphics card.
Below is the block diagram that illustrates the main features of the 785G, along with a diagrammatic representation of how each component fits.
The second major difference with the 785G is the new integrated HD4200 graphics core. This brings DirectX 10.1 support, HDMI 1.3 compatibility, and AMD’s Universal Video Decoder (UVD). This UVD technology enables the graphics processor to aid with video decoding during playback, an essential feature nowadays on these IG boards, particularly if you have any plans of building an HTPC. The 785G also has some features such as Picture-in-Picture capability, and enhancements such as colour vibrance, flesh tone enhancement, noise reduction, and contrast settings.
Further, with ATI’s Hybrid Crossfire, you can insert a discrete graphics card to boost the performance of the integrated graphics onboard. However, we know that integrated graphics are still not at the point where they are truly capable of producing "respectable" framerates to the point of being considered for a gaming system. You’re really only limited to 800×600 resolution at the best of times, and even then you’ll get mediocre performance if you try to run any "modern" game, though you may just get by on some older titles. The reality is that if you plan on building a gaming rig, you’ll go with a discrete card anyways, but you can build a killer cheap rig with a 785G board and an ATI Radeon 4770, that is if you can find one.
As for the Southbridge, we have the SB710, and there’s nothing changed here from the previous boards. The SB710 was previously used with the 780G, but continues here as a cross between the older SB700 and the SB750 that are used on 790GX-based motherboards. Thankfully the SB710 inherits a few helpful features from its big brother, such as Advanced Clock Calibration (ACC), which is helpful during advanced overclocking.
Let’s now look at the ECS A785GM-M more closely.