Pros: Supports six core AMD processors, integrated DX 10.1 video, core unlocker, anti-surge protection
Cons: motherboard does not support DDR DIMMs with less than 512Mb
Building computers has always been a fun task for me and ASUS always seems to provide quality products that make it a rewarding experience. The ASUS M4A785-M motherboard seems like just another model number destined for obscurity but I am writing this review to help change its fate. The M4A785-M has an integrated Direct X 10.1 video card with 1080P HDMI output and the ability to use the 3.2GHz AMD Phenom II X6 Six-Core Processor . Of course, I do not think I can change the world's obsession with miniature low speed Intel Atom processors but this review might show you the alternative computing possibilities that exist today.
My latest endeavor involves creating a computer that broadcasts streaming video to the internet from a wireless internet feed and multiple USB video cameras. The system will broadcast video of my solar power station to the internet and has to survive temperatures as high as 120 degrees Fahrenheit on a daily basis because it will be placed outside. The temperatures are so high that I already burned up the Zotac GF8200 GeForce 8200-ITX Wifi AM2 motherboard after just two weeks of use in September of 2010. The ASUS M4A785-M arrived just two days later from Amazon.com and was put into service in just a few hours. Between the hot and cold of September 2010 to December 2010, this ASUS product has survived without any problems maintaining a constant uptime. Sorry Zotac but ASUS quality has no equal.
The motherboard of a computer or even a netbook connects all the digital components together. The motherboard features logic chips which control the hard drive, DVD drive, sound card and the mouse which controls your input to the computer. The difference with this motherboard is that it has many components integrated into it so you do not have to spend money on extra parts. Let's take a closer look at what makes this ASUS motherboard superior to anything ZOTAC has to offer.
The Integrated ATI Radeon HD 4200 GPU Is Ready For Gaming On Your HDMI Television!
Since, the video card is integrated into this mother board, you are going to save a little money right away with this product. For years, integrated video cards have been notoriously slow compared to their higher priced brethren. While it remains true that this video card is still slower than most retail PCIe x16 versions, it still has capability of addressing up to 512Mb of memory. In fact, it supports Direct X 10.1, OpenGL 2.0, Shader Model 4.1, hardware decode acceleration for H.264, VC-1 and MPEG-2.
For the home multimedia shopper, this motherboard features the following ports to create your dream viewing experience:
Optical S/PDIF output port
Even more intriguing is the ability to dual display on the HDMI and VGA ports of this motherboard. You can setup multiple televisions for viewing different streaming broadcasts of NFL games or just play Microsoft Flight Simulator with a gauge cluster on a second monitor. All you need to do now is find the right microcomputer case for this motherboard and you can jump into high definition gaming today!
ASUS Core Unlocker
One very handy feature of this ASUS product is the Core Unlocker. Using an AMD Sempron 140, I was able to quickly unlock the second hidden core in the BIOS. When I booted into Windows XP Professional, the second core appeared as if it had always been there. You can use this feature to save a tremendous amount of money by getting the processing power you need to play Blu-Ray movies. If you do a little searching on the internet, you can find other AMD processors that have hidden cores and even unlock dual core processors to get 3 cores!
Rugged Anti-Surge Protection
To be honest, I use my computer systems for work only which means I consume more amps than most users ever will. This motherboard is installed in full tower computer case that also acts as the control center for my polycrystalline solar array. To prevent any failures in these high power configurations, you want a good motherboard. The ASUS M4A785-M comes with Anti-Surge Protection to help with these situations. The special design prevents your processor and the motherboard from damage caused by surges from the switching power supply. For example, you can see a surge anytime you turn on a 63" Samsung HD television with this computer nearby.
Memory Configurations Are Important On The ASUS M4A785-M Motherboard!
You can install up to 16Gb of unbuffered ECC and non-ECC DDR2 1066 memory modules across the available 4 memory slots in this ASUS computing product. One of the things easily forgotten by even the most experienced computer builders, in the past, was the importance of proper memory configuration. The ASUS M4A785-M motherboard comes with a total of four DDR2 memory slots that are capable of handling speeds up to 1200Mhz. In the past, the problem always came when installing just two DDR2 memory chips. I used the PNY Optima MD4096KD2-800 4GB 2x2GB Dual Channel Kit DDR2 800 MHz CL 5-5-5-15 PC2-6400 Desktop DIMM Memory Module which I purchased from Amazon.com. When I originally placed them in the motherboard, I placed one in DIMM_A1 and DIMM_A2 thinking that would activate Dual Channel mode for Bank A. When I ran my POV Ray benchmark on the AMD 965 processor, the result was a 7 minutes 53 seconds. When I moved the memory chip to bank DIMM_B1 from DIMM_A2, I noticed that my memory was in Dual channel mode and my POV Ray benchmark returned the same value. So we can see that there is no gain from memory slot changes. I see this as great news for the novice system builder because you no longer have to worry about proper memory configurations with the ASUS M4A785-M AM2+ motherboard.
The other thing that you have to consider is how you actually populate the memory sticks on this motherboard. Do not forget that Microsoft Windows XP Professional 32 bit does not support more than 4Gb of installed system memory and will sometimes recognize it as 3Gb.
ASUS M4A785-M Motherboard; Benchmark Results And Performance Evaluation
The test setup for these benchmark results is rather simple: AMD PHENOM II 4X Z965 AM3 BLACK EDITION Processor, 4Gb of DDR2 ram and a 160Gb 7200RPM SATA Hard Drive.
Super Pi V1.1 Results
Super Pi is an application that extrapolates the specified digits of PI into a text file. Using just one cpu core at time, the program has proven to be a very reliable stress test for many AMD and Intel products. Processors with large on-die cache sizes and high memory bus speeds tend to do better in this benchmark. A low processing time in this benchmark will directly translate to faster performance of web browsers so it is very important to pick a computer chip that excels in this test.
Here are the results of three runs at 1,000,000 digits of PI:
1) 20 seconds
2) 19 seconds
3) 20 seconds
POV-Ray 3.7 Beta Results
POV -Ray stresses the floating point unit and memory bandwidth of the processor to render stunning 2D images. A new version of the freeware 3D animation utility has been released that offers SSE2 enhanced processing extensions along with multicore optimizations that will utilize all the available cores in your computer. As comparison, the AMD (ADA4000DAA5BN) Athlon 64 4000+, 2.4 GHz processor which is compatible with this ASUS motherboard, completed this test in 26 minutes 2 seconds at stock clock speed.
Using the benchmark.pov file at 512x384 NO AA:
1) 4 minutes 25 seconds;
2) 4 minutes 26 seconds;
3) 4 minutes 26 seconds;
I ran a few benchmarks and quickly realized that this motherboard and AMD x4 965 had the same results in the ASUS M4A89GTD PRO Motherboard. Even though the chipset in this board is a generation behind, it was still able to keep up. I think this shows the advantage of integrating the memory controller into AMD processors.
Please note that I have not tried to tweak this motherboard for maximum performance by overclocking. I was able to confirm that the AMD PHENOM II 4X Z965 AM3 BLACK EDITION Processor can run at 4.0 Ghz on this motherboard but that was only for a brief moment. The reason I did not overclock is because of the risk of damage to the voltage regulators on this small form factor motherboard. To help keep this ASUS product stable in any operating environment it has Anti-Surge protection. I think this prevented it from failing in high temperatures last summer when the ZOTAC product failed just after a few days.
ASUS M4A785-M Motherboard Specifications And Features List
Model Number: M4A785-M
Processor Support: AMD Phenom II, Athlon II, Sempron 100 series processors
SATA: 6 3Gb/s drives
Audio: 8 channel high definition audio
Lan: Gigabit Lan controller
Video: Integrated ATI Radeon HD 4200 GPU with up to 512Mb addressable from system memory
Video Out: HDMI, DVI, RGB
Form Factor: MicroATX 9.6"x9.6"
ASUS M4A785-M Processor Compatibility List
To show the broad range of AMD processors that work in this motherboard, I thought I should include a brief list that exhibit the wide range of products that you can use. If you have one of these, this should give you plenty of reason to upgrade.
Athlon 64 X2 4600+, Athlon 64 X2 5400+, Athlon 64 X2 6500+, Athlon IIX2 235e, Phenom IIX4 910E(HD910EOCK4DGM), Phenom IIX4 810 (HDX810WFK4FGI), Sempron LE-1250, Sempron 145 SDX145HBK13GM, Phenom X4 9950 (HD995ZXAJ4BGH), Phenom X3 8250e (HD8250ODJ3BGH), Phenom IIX6 1075T(HDT75TFBK6DGR), Phenom IIX6 1035T(HDT35TWFK6DGR), Phenom IIX4 805 (HDX805WFK4FGI)
All of the features in this terrific AMD motherboard (Anti-Surge protections, HDMI out, VGA out, 3.2GHz AMD Phenom II X6 Six-Core Processor 1090T AM3 support) come in a uATX Form Factor which is just 9.6" x 9.6" in size. The motherboard has also shown that it can reliably perform up to the same speeds as the ASUS M4A89GTD PRO which has a newer chipset. All of this should weigh heavily in your decision to buy a computer designed as a multimedia streaming system for your living room entertainment center.
Here are some other AMD computer based products that you may be interested in:
AMD PHENOM II 4X Z965 AM3 BLACK EDITION Processor
Overclocking The AMD Sempron 140 @ 3.51Ghz
Dust-Off The Original Compressed Gas Duster XL
ASUS 1201N wireless computing netbook
AMD 1090T x6 Black Edition processor
AMD (ADA4000DAA5BN) Athlon 64 4000+, 2.4 GHz processor