Package and Contents
ASUS has packaged the N4L-VM in a new white and blue box, which are the colours of the ViiV platform from Intel from all the advertisement that we have seen. On the front there are only a few bits of info such as the model number.
On the back of the box, there is all the info you will need. ASUS gives a plethora of information on the boards features, layouts, specifications and even shows you their proprietary heatsink that is included in the box.
Manuals and drivers are pretty simple. ASUS gives you a single large user manual with all the info on setting up the board for beginners to advanced users as well as the BIOS settings for the board. Drivers are on a single CD with a boot option that allows you to create FDD's for Windows XP install when using the onboard RAID controllers.
Finally ASUS now has a deal with Intervideo to bundle copies of WinDVD, WinProducer and a few other goodies in their motherboards - these will come in handy for the Digital Home.
ASUS also includes in the board 2 PCI expansion slot covers with ports. One has 2 USB 2.0 ports in it and the other has a single Firewire port. While handy, it is best to get a case with front ports for these extra headers which eliminate having to reach around the back of the PC to plug in your USB or Firewire peripherals, though it is nice to have these extras included if you don't manage to get such a case.
ASUS uses a proprietary I/O shield layout, so you will need to use the included I/O shield. In fact no boards these days use the old ATX spec port layout as they are simply out of date these days, and each manufacturer has their own preferred port layouts.
As mentioned earlier, when you take a look at the back of the box, ASUS shows you a heatsink. The heatsink while somewhat large it is still small enough to fit into the most constrictive HTPC cases out there. Since the Core Duo and Core Solo CPU's generate far less heat than Pentium based CPU's, it's easier to reduce the heatsink size. The fan included is a 70mm fan that revs out at 3200 RPM, when at full speed you can just hear the fan over the HDD but not a loud whine like most fans for Intel CPU's these days.
The bottom of the heatsink looks almost like one of the Northbridge heatsinks that sit on the FP-BGA chipsets Intel produce. This isn't far from the truth as the Core Duo and Core Solo don't have a heatspreader, just like the Pentium-M CPU's.