It’s a Micro-ATX design that is a curious mixture of the old and the new. Starting at the I/O panel there are legacy Serial and Parallel ports alongside four USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit LAN and six audio mini jacks. Four USB is the bare minimum we consider acceptable on a modern PC but there are two headers on the board that support four more USB ports so provided you have a suitable case you’ll be OK. Having said that, you don’t get any USB brackets in the box.
The Realtek audio is a little basic and while it supports Intel’s HD audio with a full eight channels there are no digital connections. The biggest let-downs on the I/O panel are lack of FireWire and the VGA output for the graphics. This might well be a deliberate ploy by Intel as the GMA 3100 graphics core is rather feeble and doesn’t support any clever video features apart from motion compensation. If you want proper video decoding like Intel’s TV wizard or HDMI output then you need the G33 chipset rather than the G31. Even so it would have been nice to have a DVI output to support a TFT display without any need for an adapter.
While we’re knocking GMA 3100, it’s worth pointing out that it is a Shader Model 2 part with support for Vertex Shader 2.0a and Pixel Shader 2.0, but frankly it doesn’t matter as the graphics have no hope of playing any game more testing than FreeCell.
Turning to the layout of the board the four SATA connectors are neatly parked down in one corner in line with the PCI-E x4 expansion slot. It makes sense to include a x4 slot as the chipset supports a total of 20 PCI-E lanes but PCI-E expansion cards are thin on the ground so it’s all a bit hypothetical.
We weren’t best impressed by the way that the graphics slot is jammed up against the memory latches and you’ll have to do some fancy work with a biro or screwdriver to work the retention latch if you want to remove a graphics card from the depths of your case.
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