Normally we start with the package and contents, this time our motherboard was sent to us bare OEM because of the early status of the motherboard, so it is straight onto the motherboard itself.
GIGABYTE has used the Micro-ATX form factor that most of the AMD 690G motherboards are coming out in. The PCB is the traditional blue that GIGABYTE has used for quite some time, which is quite attractive.
The layout of the motherboard is extremely neat even for a budget motherboard. The 24-pin power connector, HDD and FDD connectors are located behind the four DIMM sockets. The 4-pin power connector is located behind the PS/2 ports at the top left of the motherboard, a better design than that of the MSI motherboard. The four SATA ports are located at the bottom right of the motherboard in 2x2 stacks on a 90 degree angle. Basically we are seeing a perfect layout so far.
Like the MSI 690G motherboard, GIGABYTE has gone for a 3 phase voltage system for the CPU. AMD's CPU's have been very energy efficient compared to the Netburst series CPU, it is only now that Intel has swapped over to Core architecture that the Intel brand CPU aren't referred to as the foot warmer, 3 phases of voltage are more than adequate for a non-overclocked AMD CPU but four or above are recommended for overclocking. While GIGABYTE has used solid state capacitors on its top line motherboards, their value motherboard still uses electrolyte capacitors.
The rear I/O ports on GIGABYTEs 690G setup are extremely well set up. There are no serial or parallel ports on the motherboard; these have been removed to make way for the two video ports - one DVI and one CRT - hence providing dual monitor support using the onboard video. Added to this is the HDMI port for HDTV's with HDMI input, a must have for today's digital Home setup. Digital audio is handled by a single Toslink SPDIF port on the back, for the analogue setup there are six 3.5mm stereo audio ports that run off the HD audio chip. Lastly there is a single Firewire port atop of one of the two USB stacks and a Gigabit LAN port on the top of the second USB stack.
Lastly down to the expansion slots and the additional add-ons. GIGABYTE has changed the way we think of the budget motherboards. First if you do not want to use the onboard graphics system, you can use a PCI Express x16 slot coloured blue. For extra speed a PCI Express x4 slot coloured orange is included which allows you to run a RAID controller card but why you would want to in a budget or HTPC system is beyond me. It would have been nice if it was an x4 slot universal with no back to allow an extra graphics card.
Lastly the add-ons that is not included on the chipset. To give you the Gigabit LAN support, a Marvell Yukon PCI Express x1 LAN chip is included and for the Firewire support a Texas Instruments 3 port PCI chip is also included.