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Gigabyte GA-MA69G-S3H Motherboard

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In the search to build an inexpensive HTPC, options can be limitless. You can choose to build a full sized upright system, a desktop, or micro. Depending on the size of your motherboard, your options can be limited. The next options are which components to use; will they be some extras that you have around the house or will they be a mixture of both new and old?

All systems start with a motherboard and the motherboard you choose will dictate what you might be able to do with the rest of the system as per what type of CPU you will use (AMD or Intel), onboard video or PCI-E, HDMI or DVI etc. So whatever you choose, choose carefully as you will be bound by the motherboard's features.


Gigabyte GA-MA69G-S3H:

The Gigabyte GA-MA69G-S3H, along with having onboard video, is Crossfire ready. To some, this is a perk, but to others it could be a fault. Unfortunately, the Crossfire setup on this board limits you to using your second card in PCI-E 4X. So are you really getting the full benefit of Crossfire? I will admit the perk of utilizing it as a Crossfire setup along with the onboard video can give you the expandability of having 6 monitors connected to the system, but if you are building a budget HTPC, you might not have 6 monitors just lying around to even cross that bridge. The next perk of Crossfire would be increased frame rates while playing games, but its fault could be that you are not too interested in playing games.

HDMI is one of this motherboard's biggest pluses. One cable and you instantly have HD video and sound. Gigabyte was also kind enough to include a 6” HDMI to DVI-I dongle to get you started. HD is today’s rage and having the tools to utilize HD is a plus.


BIOS and Overclocking:

Last but not least, we have the BIOS and overclocking. If you noticed while looking at the BIOS screen shots, there wasn’t an option for Advanced Chipset Features. Well, there is, but Gigabyte has chosen to hide it. This might be a way to deter an inexperienced overclocker, but as someone who has the knowledge, I was just a little miffed. I normally skim through a motherboard's manual, so I very easily missed the one sentence that explained how to access the Advanced Chipset Features, and even then, that sentence was a little confusing. “If you do not find the settings you want in the main menu or a sub menu press + to access more advanced options.” Well I looked through the manual 3 times to find that sentence but after reading it and hitting the desired keys in all the submenus, all I got was a help file. Finally, I just went to the main menu and hit the keys and that is when the Advanced Chipset Features appeared. I didn’t notice it at first until I saw that M.I.T. happened to be on the other side of the page.

My main concern about overclocking with this board was not having the Advanced option. Personally, the M.I.T. is too vague and not knowing what my RAM was set at or being able to change the normal functions that would be contained under the advanced settings was a deterrent. When I did finally access the advanced functions, I decided to give overclocking a try. I was able to achieve a 227 FSB overclock before either the chipset, or RAM limitations halted me. (3405 MHz) I did try lowering the multiplier but without using a divider on the RAM, I could not exceed much more than 750 MHz on my DDR2 5300. In order to achieve this, I did have to increase the voltage on the CPU to 1.475v, RAM to 2.1v, and the NB/SB up .50 MHz.

Nonetheless, the board is overclockable, but you will have to work to find the advanced options. Fortunately, most people are not worried about this considering they are building an HTPC.


Final Thought:

At a price of just under $90.00 and referring back to the first part of this series of inexpensive ways to build either an inexpensive second home computer or HTPC, your cost would increase approximately $25.00. (HTPC Extras)

For those of you who want to be able to someday utilize the board's Crossfire features, this board would be worth considering.

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