Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Gigabyte GA-73PVM-S2H (rev. 1.0)
- Inexpensive integrated solution for a slimline or small form factor home or business PC, eSATA
- HDMI output wasn't rendered properly on our test displays, slightly sluggish performance
This board is an inexpensive base for a slimline PC for the home or office. However, its inability to properly render a 1920x1080 resolution via HDMI means it's not the best solution for a home-theatre PC.
Price$ 119.00 (AUD)
NVIDIA's nForce 630i chipset is teamed with an integrated GeForce 7100 graphics processor on this motherboard, making it a useful all-in-one motherboard for a home-theatre or slimline PC. But it does have some quirks, especially when you try to use its HDMI port with a high-definition display.
Before we get to its video capabilities though, the nitty gritty of the board is as follows: it's NVIDIA's first Intel-based board with integrated graphics, which will accept any LGA775-based processors, including the Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme, and it has two DIMM slots, which can accommodate up to 4GB of RAM.
On a physical level, the board is tiny; based on the microATX form factor, it will fit into mini-tower sized PC cases, as well as slimline and home-theatre style cases, and it's the latter type of solution for which this motherboard is perfect.
Indeed, as well as being a small size, its integrated graphics will drive a display through either a DVI or HDMI connection and because you won't have to install a separate graphics card, the amount of noise and heat generated by a system using this motherboard will be minimal.
The HDMI connection is HDCP-ready; it was able to display Blu-ray movies using an HDCP-enabled display, but we did notice a scanning problem with the 7100 graphics adapter's driver. Despite outputting a 1920x1080 native resolution to our display, the edges of the Windows Vista desktop (including the Taskbar) were lost beyond the edges of the display and there was no way to remedy this using NVIDIA's driver. It did the same through its DVI port when we used a DVI to HDMI adapter. As such, using this board to connect to an HDMI display will be a frustrating experience. Conversely, we had no such HDMI problems when using the ASUS P5E-VM HDMI, which is based on an Intel X3500 graphics chip.
As for the board's performance, it wasn't as fast as we were hoping it would be. It scored 111 in WorldBench 6, which is a fair result, but about four points lower than what was expected of it. In the iTunes MP3 encoding test, where we encode 53min worth of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3 files, it took 60sec, which is about 10sec off what we were expecting from a board running a QX6850 CPU.
The integrated 7100 graphics adapter is powerful enough to allow high-resolution photos, and large PowerPoint presentations, to be edited and displayed without any noticeable sluggishness, as long you equip it with plenty of RAM and a dual-core CPU. However, it's not powerful enough to run many games. It's a DirectX 9-based adapter where it scored 453 in 3DMark06, which is a very slow result. Even older DirectX 9-based games, such as FEAR, won't be playable with smooth frame rates -- we got 25 frames per second when running it at 1024x768.
But it's not meant to be used for gaming -- it's a neat (and at $119, inexpensive) solution for a business PC, mainly because large graphics files won't be sluggish.
For connectivity, the board has good options, including gigabit Ethernet, 8-channel digital audio, 10 USB 2.0 ports (four on the rear port cluster and six available via internal pin headers), FireWire, and it also has a D-Sub port.
There are only three SATA ports located on the board, which seems inadequate until you look at the rear port cluster, where three eSATA ports reside. As this motherboard is best suited to a small PC case, it's unlikely that multiple hard drives will be installed inside the system, so the three eSATA ports are a convenient way of getting fast performance for external storage devices.
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