Bundled Software and BIOS
ASUS, like most motherboard vendors, augments its hardware offerings with software bundles intended to add value. We’d split the M3A78-EMH’s bundle up into two categories: software utilities that complement hardware functionality and standalone apps that you’d (ASUS hopes) want anyway, even if they weren’t included with the board.
From the first category, ASUS bundles its Cool’n’Quiet utility, PC Probe, RAIDXpert (AMD’s Web-based software RAID driver), and ASUS’ own online BIOS updating utility. Between those few apps, you have the tools in-hand to make sure the platform is running as it should. And while the RAIDXpert utility isn’t as polished as Intel’s equivalent storage interface, it’s a step in the right direction for enabling basic mirroring and striping.
The second category is significantly more forgettable. A 90-trial for Norton Internet Security greets you with incessant reminders that you need protection beyond its 90-day window of availability. Corel’s SnapFire Plus helps arrange photos and burn them to DVD—ideal if you’re too inept to do the job on your own, but hardly a value. InterVideo’s DVD Copy CopyLater could be considered more useful, since it transcodes media files to the format of your choice. No, it doesn’t rip copy-protected DVDs to your desktop, in case you were wondering.
The AMI-based BIOS ASUS uses is ample for a mainstream machine, but it’s decidedly less configurable than Gigabyte’s GA-MA78GM-S2H, which facilitates independent clock control over the Radeon HD 3200 GPU along with almost every other facet of processor, HyperTransport, and memory performance.
ASUS’ processor overclocking window lets you manually key in a reference clock manually or tweak by percentage, automatically increasing the processor and HyperTransport frequencies. There’s also an option to change the HyperTransport’s link frequency and width to a setting lower than the default—perhaps useful if HT speed is holding back your overclocking efforts.
You don’t get access to graphics core settings; however, ASUS does expose extremely granular memory timing adjustments, letting you experiment with 17 different parameters for the most bandwidth possible. We saw in our 780G preview that the chipset’s graphics performance is extremely sensitive to memory and HT bandwidth, so any increase you can add will yield faster frame rates. Memory frequency can be tweaked in bigger jumps, from 200 to 533 MHz in 66 MHz increments.
There are only two real video tweaks: you can manually set aside a block of system memory up to 512MB or you can turn SurroundView on and off. SurroundView is the feature that lets you add a discrete card and take advantage of up to four independent display controllers, yielding serious multi-monitor configurations.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive motherboard to overclock, look elsewhere. The ASUS M3A78-EMH HDMI has a handful of rudimentary speed tweaks. Without any voltage adjustments, though, you’ll be severely limited in what you can do. We took our 2.5 GHz Athlon X2 4850e from 2.5 GHz to 2.625 GHz with a 10 MHz reference clock increase, but 3DMark06 wasn’t at all responsive to the jump.