The traditional computer market as we know it is
changing, becoming more creative and exciting. There once was a very
definite line between consumer electronics and computers, but as all media goes digital that line is falling by the way-side. To stay relevant to our changing demands, computer makers are embracing the movies, music, and the digital outputs that sustain each format - audio and video. After all, why have several different electronics doing what a computer could handle in one small package?
As usual Intel was the first to make a move. It
brought forth Viiv several years back, which even to this day we have a
hard time really explaining. AMD had Live!, which again was more marketing than
something you could tangibly sink your teeth into. However, with the release of the AMD 690G chipset, AMD has definitely surpassed anything Intel has done so far. With the acquisition of ATi, the 690G chipset came to life as one of the finest chipsets for a home theatre platform thus far.
We can almost imagine AMD engineers looking at what
nVIDIA did right with the GeForce 6100 series, and building on top of
that. Home theatre wise the AMD 690G is definitely superior to nVIDIA's aging platform, and with HDCP and HDMI support by default, it really brings down the cost of a home theatre PC since a dedicated videocard is no even required. Like you, there is nothing we like better than a super affordable platform that gives you almost everything under the sun!!
ECS is the king of lost cost computing, and you'll be hard pressed to find anything that beats its
AMD690GM-M2 motherboard. With a retail price of just $71 CDN ($65 USD, £32 GBP) the AMD690GM-M2 is one of the
most inexpensive Socket AM2 motherboards on the market. Considering the features it has, it's a steal.
The ECS AMD690GM-M2 supports AMD Sempron and Athlon64
X2/FX processors which use the Socket AM2 form factor. There are two DDR2 DIMM
slots for a maximum of 4GB of DDR2-800 memory. Onboard video encompasses both a
DVI and analog monitor connection, but regrettably not HDMI. HDMI is supported by the chipset, but if the manufacturer does not implemented a jack you're going to have to find a DVI-to-HDMI converter cable yourself. Integrated goodies include Gigabit network card, 7.1 channel High Definition Azalia compatible sound card, ten USB 2.0 slots, four Serial ATA II ports which support RAID modes 0, 1 and 0+1.
Should you need more than this, the ECS AMD690GM-M2 motherboard supports a PCI Express x16 slot for videocards, a PCI Express x1 slot for high bandwidth devices and two 32 bit PCI slots for legacy hardware.
If you're a novice at computer hardware, you may want to
have a more experienced friend handy when setting up the ECS AMD690GM-M2
motherboard. This MicroATX board is not as user friendly as we'd like it, but then again with a price
point of ~$70 CDN you really can't complain. The Hardware Installation Guide while
brief is pretty detailed and the User's Guide is also very well written.
From hardware installation to BIOS and driver setup, ECS has this part of its game pretty
ECS place both a DVI and analog
video output on the rear I/O so you can use dual monitors if you'd like. It's
important to note that the DVI connector on the AMD690GM-M2 motherboard does not work with DVI-to-analog converters. Noticeably
missing were the HDMI and S-Video output connectors that most other AMD 690G
motherboards include. While you can run HDMI through the DVI connector, it does
make things more difficult, and as it is there's no way to output the ECS
AMD690GM-M2 motherboard to standard definition televisions.
board does incorporates High Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) into it. This is a form of
Digital Rights Management developed by Intel for high definition digital video
and audio content. Whether you like it or not, the HDCP signal travels
through the DVI or High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) to HDCP compatible display's. This
is supposed to ensure that only legitimate High Definition content is played, if the
HDCP keys don't match or are missing content plays at a reduced quality.
So to recap, the AMD 690G supports HDCP and is Windows
Vista compatible, has two onboard video output options, and runs
without any noisy chipset fan. Next up let's look at the technology behind AMD