The Motherboard - Layout and Impressions
Being based on ViiV technology, which is pretty much for the home theatre, its no surprise to us that the board is based on the Micro ATX format measuring just 24x24cm. While small it does pack a good punch in terms of layout and features. First off we have a look at the placement of connectors and cleanliness of the board.
ASUS has done a very clean job of the placement of what we like to call the bulky cables. First off the 24-pin ATX power cable, 4-pin Aux power cable, IDE and FDD connectors are located on the right hand side of the board all in one group. Small form factor requires good layouts as space is at a premium, keeping the bulk of the cables in one spot allows for a better air flow profile over the hotter parts of the board such as the chipsets and the CPU.
ASUS has put the DIMM sockets on the opposite side of the board for this one. We are used to seeing them between the CPU and the cables for the power, this time they are located between the I/O ports and the CPU. There are a couple yellow coloured DDR-2 sockets supporting Dual Channel memory of up to 2GB in size, more than enough for the digital media centre, but if you want to use this for gaming, Windows Vista will be hungry for memory and even 2GB might not be enough at a later date.
One thing you will note is that on the top and bottom of the board are loop hooks. These are the same hooks used to secure the Chipset heatsinks to most boards. These are what the ASUS heatsink clamp onto. Personally we would have liked to see a Socket 478 style heatsink mount, allowing you to use which ever heatsink or water cooling system that is compatible with Socket 478 mountings.
ASUS uses 3 phase voltage regulation system on the board to give a stable CPU voltage, even when overclocking. Core series CPU's, like the Pentium-M, really only need a 2 phase voltage system for optimal performance, though it's nice to see a bit more juice on tap if you need it. There are no passive heatsinks installed on the board for the power system, as they barely get warm even under the stresses of benchmarking.