ASUS M2A-HV HDMI
- HDMI, quiet operator, good expansion options
- Integrated graphics may impede overall system performance
The ASUS M2A-VM HDMI has a good combination of new and old connectivity options and is perfect as a foundation for a media centre PC.
Price$ 129.00 (AUD)
It's been a while since we've reviewed a new AMD motherboard. The ASUS M2A-VM HDMI is slightly different from the norm as it's aimed at those of you who want to build a compact media centre PC.
The standout features of this board are its integrated design, silent operation and advanced connections. It's among the first boards we've seen to ship with an HDCP-compliant HDMI port, which is supplied on a full-height PCIe x16-sized expansion module. This module also has S-Video and composite connections while the rear port cluster of the board has DVI and VGA. These connections make it a desirable board for a media centre PC, and ASUS' Q-Fan technology helps keep the CPU fan quiet. If a graphics card isn't installed, then a PC based on this board will be virtually silent.
The board uses an AMD 690G chipset, which has integrated graphics, and its AM2 CPU slot can accommodate anything from a Sempron 64 to an Athlon 64 FX. Its dimensions are a paltry 24x23cm so it's a good candidate for a mini-tower case.
Due to the board being small, it's easy to install. We love the Q-Connector that ASUS has pioneered, which lets you attach all case switches and light connections to a small block, which can then be easily lined up and plugged into the motherboard. It means you don't have to squint to read the labels on the motherboard's pin-header (and on this board you really do have to squint) nor do you have to fiddle with cables inside the case.
While the board is small, it does have above-average expansion facilities: it has four memory slots, one PCIe x16, one PCIe x1, two PCI slots and four SATA ports. It can be built up to be quite powerful, depending on the CPU and the amount of memory you use. We tested it with an AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+ CPU (2.6GHz), 1GB of DD2 800 RAM, and a 150GB Western Digital Raptor hard drive using Windows Vista.
We didn't run into any problems installing the motherboard using the Vista drivers supplied to us by ASUS. All of the motherboard's components were installed correctly, including its integrated ATI X1250 graphics chip, high definition Realtek ALC883 audio and gigabit Ethernet controller.
Running our WorldBench 6 benchmark program, the board racked up a score of 77, which isn't too crash-hot when compared to what Core 2 Duo-equipped CPUs can do. However, an Athlon 64 X2 5000+ will provide sufficient grunt for a media-centre PC. Individual application scores within WorldBench 6 showed it to be just over one minute slower when encoding video files: the Windows Media Encoder test was completed in 271sec, compared to 204sec for a similarly clocked Intel Core 2 Duo E6700-based machine with a discrete graphics card installed. For playing games, the integrated graphics aren't adequate -- 3DMark06 returned a low score of 284.
This board has a good combination of new and old connectivity options and is perfect as a foundation for a media centre PC. Its integrated graphics are powerful enough to run Windows Vista with the Aero interface enabled, but overall system performance does take a hit.
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