We have now tested three retail AMD 690G motherboards - MSI, GIGABYTE and ECS. All three motherboards are great but what it comes down to is features as performance is clearly very similar.
ECS was very plain with simple onboard video with CRT port - no DVI or HDMI ports put it well out of the Digital Home environment. With only CRT port you have no way of connecting it to a TV unless you run a discrete graphic card, which is going to cost you extra money and that is probably something you are trying to avoid with a system like this.
MSI did a better job by giving you CRT and HDMI ports, but it still lacked the DVI port that we now prefer to see for an onboard setup, as you can get DVI to CRT converters easy, allowing you to use CRT if that is all you have, but most TV's now have DVI and even HDMI ports.
GIGABYTE is the clear winner of the three motherboards. Adding CRT and DVI ports to the motherboard gives not only the choice of DVI or CRT, but if you want to run Dual Monitor setups, you can do that with this motherboard and still have the HDMI interface. If your TV supports HDMI, then you are all systems go with this motherboard. If you have an LCD with only DVI, then again GIGABYTE has catered to your needs, making it truly a universal Digital Home motherboard.
Added to this the Gigabit LAN, Firewire, four SATA-II ports as well as a PCI Express X4 slot, the motherboard comes well packed with great features - the most we have seen from any AMD 690G motherboard so far. Layout is extremely clean compared to MSI and ECS, meaning a cooler running system, cooler operations means less heat to dissipate and that results in quieter running fans.
Only GIGABYTE managed to do any overclocking, and that was only 5MHz FSB above standard bus speeds, so it does have that to gloat about if they want, but 5MHz FSB increase is really not going to result in a very big performance boost.
Today we crown GIGABYTE the winner of the 690G motherboards unless we see someone come up with a better design, we have to give GIGABYTE their dues to putting together the best Digital Home m-ATX motherboard based on the AMD 690G chipset that we have tested and looked at so far.
Supports full AM2 range of processors
DVI, HDMI and CRT ports - the full Monty!
SPDIF Toslink port for digital audio output
7.1 HD Audio
PCI Express x4 slot in place of PCI Express x1 (nice innovation)
Very basic OC but at least it has some overclock ability
Best connector layout we have seen on an AMD 690G motherboard so far
Chipsets do not require active cooling - quieter system
Rating - 9.5 out of 10 and TweakTown's "MUST HAVE" Best Features Award!
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