Abit AN-M2HD High Definition MotherboardFormer staff writer -
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The Abit AN-M2HD is the last of the three AMD integrated motherboards and is the most expensive at a price of $109.99, which will increase the total of your HTPC/second computer by $45.00 dollars above the lowest price motherboard we reviewed. Giving a total estimated cost of $339.99. (Please see extras in these two reviews to read our ongoing article.) Extras 1 and Extras 2
When building a low cost second computer or HTPC, there are some things that we can do with or do without, and the AN-M2HD has a lot of extras that some of us can’t do without. When you build an HTPC, you are probably going to want some type of expandability and it always seems that USB ports run out before you have connected your mouse. With four external ports and 4 internal USB headers, along with the supplied USB/IEEE bracket, this motherboard has more than enough. The 4’ HDMI/DVI-D cable is a plus. When was the last time someone actually supplied their own HDMI cable that you didn’t have to use an attachment for? Best Buy, Circuit City and even Wal-Mart charge up to $60 for a dual cable of this size.
As an enthusiast, another extra could be the board's ability to overclock. Of the three boards tested, the highest clock speed was obtained with the AN-M2HD; 230 FSB with a multiplier of 15, which yielded a total of 3450 MHz and a RAM speed of approximately 765 MHz. (CPU voltage 1.475v and RAM voltage 2.10v) After testing the motherboard, I decided to make this a second computer for my girlfriend, which freed up my 5400+ processor. So I decided to see how well the 5400+ overclocked as well. The system booted stable at a FSB of 225, but anything higher and I could not get into Windows.
My two main concerns with all three boards are RAM threshold and PSU. These could be contributing factors to not being able to achieve higher overclocks with the boards. Prior to benchmarking the Gigabyte board, I was never able to achieve higher than 730 MHz on the RAM I was using. The other concern, at least for the Abit and ECS boards, was the power supply. The Apevia case comes with a 450W PSU, and after checking the rails, they did droop when I overclocked the system, which did cause some of the bottleneck. The PSU was not a concern with the Gigabyte board. I’m also sure that if I chose to put a divider on the RAM I would have been able to increase the FSB more on the Abit and Gigabyte boards.
So is it possible to build a second computer or HTPC for less than $350.00? Yes! You also have some great options when choosing the motherboard you might prefer, whether it be Micro-ATX or ATX, nVidia or AMD chipsets, HDMI or DVI. The onboard video that comes on the boards is an alternative to purchasing an entry level video card that will cost approximately $50 to $75 dollars and yield about the same results. It is also a plus to be able to use multiple monitors and receive the benefits of HDTV while also being able to type a research paper.
If you would like to see a choice of an integrated motherboard that is built for an Intel chip please see our review on the ECS GT33-M2 Motherboard.