Asus P2-M3A3200 HTPC ReviewZertz - November 6, 2008
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Without a doubt, as the testing revealed, the Asks P2-M3A3200 case and motherboard bundle wasn't meant for heavy processor work and gaming. The board completed scientific benchmarks on par with the other motherboard, but gaming performance was abysmal at best. Although the board doesn't offer any kind of processor overclocking, the BIOS let's you change the integrated graphic frequency which I was able to increase by 195MHz or nearly 30%. Quite an impressive feat for such a small and low power chip and it also performs miles better than previous and current generation alternatives from the competitors. This allowed a few games, Call of Duty, World in Conflict and Company of Heroes namely, to be playable at low quality and resolution settings. A few others offered somewhat decent framerates, even Crysis, for casual gamers not into sky high performance and graphics. Of course the discrete Radeon HD4850 performed much better, but with a low clocked processor, which the processors going into that sort of computers are due to thermal limitations, I was running into heavy processor limitations. Also, the added noise and heat is definitely something you want to avoid in HTPC's and, therefore, this really isn't a viable solution.
Where the platform really shines is when it does exactly what it was actually built for and that is the lower end market as well as home entertainment personal computers. In fact, it was able to gracefully play full high definition movies without a hitch. Although the case can only sport a single hard disk drive, which may seem like an issue for some, with the newest drives capable of storing a healthy 1.5 terabytes of data this shouldn't appear as a problem for the vast majority. Some might be worried by the small 200W power supply, but it proved to be up to task even under a fully loaded processor rated at 89W with an overclocked chipset.
While the electronics are very capable of doing more than a fine job, some of the hardware is rather deceiving. First, it would have been nice to have more than four screws included. I realize most of us have many spare ones laying around, but that may not be the case, no pun intended, for potential mainstream buyers. Especially that you need at least twice that amount to assemble everything properly. Second, the front panel, fully made out of plastic is comprised of too many parts that are bound to break. Fortunately, it will look fine in your living room as long as you don't start manipulating it. To brighten things up a bit, even though the case doesn't have any noise dampening features, it was able to keep noise levels down so it was not disturbing at all to have it running while watching a movie.
Overall, this unit from Asus is quite a good deal. The case, motherboard and power supply will take about $200 off your wallet and roughly 200 more for a processor, hard disk and optical drive. Of course, should you choose to go for a Blu-ray drive, this figure will rise quite a bit, but every good thing has a price. In the end, what's really nice is that it's possible to customize to your budget and liking. Some might like the vertical stand while others would prefer if it laid down horizontally, but that's really a matter of how your place is set up. Finally, Asus' designed and built a nice unit, but some work has to be done as far as build quality goes.
- Flexible configuration
- Small footprint
- Build quality
- Accessory bundle