Apart from the already mentioned cables and headers, AOpen also throws two SATA cables, a SATA power splitter, an IDE cable and two 3.5mm to Toslink converters to be used with the optical S/PDIFs. As always AOpen supplies excellent manuals in colour which makes it a lot easier to locate were things goes. You also get a quick setup sheet, again in colour.
I did encounter one slight snag with the board, and that was that the supplied Intel graphics drivers wouldn’t work with DVI in Windows XP. This was easily rectified by downloading the latest version from Intel’s website. Apart from this minor issue, the board was very stable. The performance numbers aren’t disappointing either, with an overall SYSMark 2004 score of 188 using the integrated graphics in combination with PC4200 DDR2 memory. Plugging in a GeForce 6800GT card only increased the score by one point to 189, while using the integrated graphics in combination with PC2700 DDR memory only lowered it by one point to 187.
The PCMark 2005 scores paints a slightly different picture, as with the graphics card in place the overall score was 4005 points. Taking the card out this drops to 2182 points and moving to DDR memory again drops the score, this time to 2088 points. For a laugh I decided to run 3DMark 03 and in the same order as the PCMark 05 scores the results were 11811, 784 and 588 points. It goes to show that integrated graphics are definitely a no-go area for gamers, but with a decent graphics card, the Pentium M processors are actually not that bad for gaming.
It is quite hard to score the i915GMm-HFS, as it is a really cool board with a very good set of features. AOpen could improve this by supplying a few more headers and connectors, but that is my only real criticism of the product as such. However, at £150.00 it is quite an expensive motherboard. Add to this that it is almost impossible to get hold of 533MHz Pentium M processors on the retail market and if you can, they’re very expensive compared to faster desktop chips and you can see where I’m coming from.
Considering that the CPU we used to test this board would set you back no less than £483.17 you can see that this isn’t the most affordable platform. However, you can pick up a Celeron M 350 for just under £65 which will work just fine with the i915GMm-HFS, while a Pentium M 730 is in the region of £155. Neither will offer the same level of performance, but if you’re building a media centre type device, raw performance isn’t everything. With that in mind, I think that AOpen has produced an excellent motherboard, now all that is needed is the perfect case to go with it – any takers?
AOpen has produced a unique product with the i915GMm-HFS and it is the ideal platform for a media centre type machine. It may be expensive, but you do get a lot of features for your money and with no competition in sight, AOpen might just have found a niche in the market where a product like this will be welcomed with open arms.