Board analysis (cont’d)
Audio duties on the GA-MA69GM-S2H are handled by Realtek’s ALC889A HD Audio CODEC. This is the exact same chip Gigabyte uses on their high-end P35 Bearlake motherboards. Considering the multimedia/video intentions of the GA-MA69GM-S2H, it’s good to see that Gigabyte didn’t compromise here.
For networking, Gigabyte employs another chip from Realtek, the RTL8110. The RTL8110 is one of Realtek’s older network controllers, and while it boasts Gigabit Ethernet functionality, it’s unfortunately hobbled by the PCI bus. This was obviously a cost-cutting move by Gigabyte as newer PCIe controllers from Realtek have been readily available on the market for some time. Considering the target audience of the GA-MA69GM-S2H board though, this is one oversight that can probably be forgiven.
Because the board is so small, officially measuring 24.4 cm x 24.4 cm, there isn’t a lot of space for lots of extras. Fortunately Gigabyte did find room for a PCI Express graphics slot, as well as an additional x4 PCIe slot, and two conventional PCI slots. The x4 PCIe slot offered on the Gigabyte GA-MA69GM-S2H motherboard provides more flexibility for expansion than other AMD-690 motherboards, which typically only provide one x1 PCIe slot.
Cooling the RS690 North Bridge and SB600 South Bridge is a simple aluminum heatsink – no active cooling on the motherboard is necessary, even when overclocking. This is due in large part because AMD uses UMC’s 80-nm manufacturing process, giving it the smallest process of any other chipset in the industry. The die itself is tiny, measuring just 50mm^2.
On the surface Gigabyte provides the obligatory BIOS settings for configuring storage devices, enabling/disabling onboard controllers, power management, etc, but dig a little further and you’ll discover settings for overclocking the board. By pressing “Ctrl+F1” the “Advanced Chipset Features” menu is unlocked. From here you can then tweak settings such as DRAM configuration, HT Link, PCI Express configuration, and CPU multiplier adjustment (among other things).
Under this menu Gigabyte provides a few options for overclocking, but not everything. For instance, Gigabyte provides HyperTransport speeds from 200-500MHz in 1MHz increments – more than enough to satisfy the needs of 99% of AMD enthusiasts – but there aren’t any BIOS settings for adjusting voltages. CPU, DRAM, PCIe, NB/SB, HT Link, none of these voltages are available for adjustment in the current BIOS for the GA-MA69GM-S2H. Because of this, your overclocking endeavors are limited to the stock voltages for these components.
This is a little disappointing to us, as we’d at least like to be able to adjust the DRAM voltages. Many enthusiast-level memory modules require 2.2V of juice or more to run at the lower timings you can clearly adjust in the GA-MA69GM-S2H’s BIOS -- what’s the point of having so many BIOS settings for tweaking memory timings if you aren’t given the voltage options you need to run those timings with stability? We’d also like to see Gigabyte add a few voltage options for the CPU. Even if the voltages available were to be capped to an artificially low number of settings, something is better than nothing.
Fortunately, you can adjust speeds for the IGP, memory, and adjust the CPU multiplier setting.
The lack of voltage options didn’t seem to hinder our overclocking endeavors with the GA-MA69GM-S2H. Running all components at stock voltage, we were able to hit HyperTransport speeds of up to 294MHz with complete stability.
We could actually POST and boot into Windows at speeds as high as 302MHz, but the system was a little flaky at this speed.