The arrival of motherboards featuring new chipsets from AMD and NVIDIA shows that all is not quiet on the Socket AM2 front; indeed, the industry activity has simply migrated to more affordable solutions as AMD’s hold on the high-end market slips away. Of these new socket AM2 motherboards based on the AMD 690G chipset, the Gigabyte GA-MA69GM-S2H is arguably one of the finest. It seems thoroughly positioned as a premium part for home theater PC enthusiasts, though it’s also a very attractive option for anyone who is looking for a value-oriented platform for a second PC, or for a non-enthusiast home/business machine.
The primary appeal of the GA-MA69GM-S2H is its robust feature set, providing every connection one could conceivably want for use in a home theater setting, with the possible exception of DisplayPort. The onboard ATI Radeon X1250 graphics chipset proved its superiority over the outgoing GeForce 6150 IGP in our testing – though it lacks support for Shader Model 3.0 and HDR, it offers AVIVO hardware-accelerated video processing, which has been shown in other testing to yield better image quality than NVIDIA’s PureVideo processing.
What’s more, the greater memory bandwidth of the 690G chipset solution gave the GA-MA69GM-S2H a respectable edge in performance over the nForce 430-based solution we also tested. In addition, its compact Micro ATX form factor makes it a perfect choice for use in a compact home theater chassis like the Antec NSK 2400, which we reviewed in late March. Couple that with Gigabyte’s great customer service and quickly growing reputation, and there’s very little not to like about this motherboard.
We had a couple quibbles with the board layout, though. Narrow clearances on either side of the CPU socket mean that you might be S.O.L. if you decide to try larger CPU coolers. We could resign ourselves to using only two of the available four memory slots, but the five tall capacitors on the left side of the socket present a major obstacle to many large tower-style CPU coolers. Also, the lack of voltage adjustments for either the CPU or the memory left us out in the cold when it came to any sort of overclocking of our energy-efficient CPUs.
All in all, we’re pleased with the product and the presentation of the Gigabyte GA-MA69GM-S2H motherboard, and we wouldn’t hesitate to choose it for our own HTPC rig. Gigabyte definitely hits it on the mark for home theater PC enthusiasts with this board. We award the Gigabyte GA-MA69GM-S2H a Techgage score of 8/10 – it’s an excellent representative of its market category.
Since the 690G chipset debuted, NVIDIA has released its answers to the 690G, the GeForce 7000-series IGPs. NVIDIA offers two 7000-series IGPs, the GeForce 7025 and GeForce 7050. We’ll be taking a look at motherboards based on those chipsets in the coming months, and keep you apprised of any performance improvements the new NVIDIA offerings provide, as well as evaluating their suitability for home theater PCs.
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