Early this year we had a look at the i855GMEm-LFS from AOpen which at the time was one of the first Pentium M motherboards available to the general public. AOpen has now released its second Pentium M board, the i915GMm-HFS. There are some fundamental differences between these two boards, not just chipset features, as AOpen has moved from a desktop board to a media centre type of board. If this is a good or a bad thing depends on your specific needs, but I for one am all in favour for this solution.
It’s really quite amazing how many features AOpen has managed to squeeze in on this microATX board. The i915GM chipset offers a wide range of features on its own and AOpen has built on this to add even more. On its own the chipset provides the integrated graphics, which with the addition of a couple of chips from Chrontel adds DVI and component video output. S-Video is also part of the package alongside a standard D-SUB connector, so you should be able to plug this board into pretty much any type of display. The only downside is that it doesn’t support HDCP, so it isn’t compliant with the new HD video copy protection standard.
The i915GMm-HFS supports both DDR and DDR2 memory, but it’s limited to PC2700 DDR modules due to the fact that Intel never offered PC3200 support in its laptop chipsets. It will however work fine with PC3200 and 4200 DDR2 modules. There will of course be certain performance advantages using DDR2 memory, but as you’ll see from our test results, they are smaller than expected. There are two slots available for each memory type, although only DDR2 offers dual channel support.
There is one downside to the mobile chipset and that is that it still uses ICH6, which means no SATA-II support. However, AOpen has added a second SATA controller from Silicon Image that does support SATA-II. A further advantage of this is that the Silicon Image controller also supports RAID 0 and 1, something that the Intel chipset doesn’t. With a total of four SATA connectors and a single IDE connector, there are plenty of drive configurations available.
Due to all of the video out options the rear I/O looks rather different from your average motherboard and AOpen has gone for an unusual layout of the connectors. At the top of the board are six 3.5mm audio jacks for the onboard 7.1-channel Intel High Definition audio controller, of which two also double up as optical S/PDIF in and out. Next to the audio connectors are the D-SUB and DVI ports. Moving on we find the component video out as well as the S-Video connector. Then there are two Ethernet ports for the two onboard Gigabit Ethernet controllers – both sitting on the PCI Express bus – and four USB 2.0 ports.