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We'll give a recap of each motherboard in conclusion.
ASUS M2A-VM and ASUS M2A-VM HDMI
The only difference between them is FireWire in the latter product. The HDMI modification significantly differs from the regular product in its positioning owing to the additional card with video outputs. The M2A-VM can be used in an inexpensive general-purpose computer, which can still use two monitors connected to its video outputs and up to four monitors with an external graphic card. The M2A-VM HDMI is intended for media centers, it can service two monitors via two digital channels (DVI and HDMI). Besides, it offers a maximum bundle as far as video outputs are concerned, which is always welcome by HTPC designers. We should do justice to ASUS engineers - this is quite an original and practical technical solution. There is only one limitation - you can assemble a computer with this motherboard in a low-profile PC case only with a riser card.
Gigabyte MA69G-S3 is also an interesting motherboard. It's less interesting for a media center. It's designed for active users, who want a full ATX solution with integrated graphics.
This motherboard unveils the chipset potential (HDMI output, DVI support is implemented without any limitations using a bundled adapter), but there are not as many video outputs (in particular, a useful bracket with TV-Out and S/PDIF In-Out is an optional accessory according to User's Manual).
Along with the standard graphics port, there is also a PCI Express x4 port, which can be used with any graphics card - a removed jumper in the rear part of the port hint at it. Thus, the number of connected monitors can be increased to six. We are only concerned about the reduction of PCI ports compared to the previous motherboard from Gigabyte - Gigabyte M55plus-S3G. The expansion of PCI Express x1 slots (this motherboard breaks all records here) is not justified by real needs.
On one hand, the
MSI K9AG Neo2-Digital is designed for users who will plug various video devices to this motherboard, because it has two digital outputs (you cannot use them simultaneously though).
On the other hand, it can be a good choice for a general-purpose computer with components "inherited" from an old computer, because it has three PCI slots, which won't be blocked even by a graphics card with a bulky cooling system. In some cases, however, housing of a cooling system may block the IDE connector, which is not placed very well. But in practice, the motherboard allows to use rich configurations at the cost of microATX motherboards on this chipset.
Biostar TA690G-AM2 takes the second place after the ASUS M2A-VM HDMI in the number of multimedia interfaces. It only lacks FireWire, and S/PDIF-In/Out is available on a bracket to be bought separately. At the same time, this motherboard demonstrates better overclocking results and a tad higher performance in the stock mode. Unfortunately, there were some gripes with the quality of some batches (unstable operation under load). So it makes sense to buy this motherboard only from official batches and in reliable stores, where there will be no problems with replacements. It's not reasonable to fix the defect by installing additional cooling on the chipset and cooling the voltage regulator, because this step does not guarantee a long-term effect - good samples of this motherboard demonstrate no problems with overheating.
MSI K9AGM2-FIH appeared before its competitors. But it's not the only reason why it's considered a reference AMD 690G product. Its cut-down modification MSI K9AGM2-F acts the same role for AMD 690V. Both motherboards are designed in the best reference traditions. That is they don't have any noticeable brand peculiarities and functional additions (except for FireWire in the top product), but they offer a good implementation of basic functions. Unfortunately, both motherboards do not support overclocking, they have only two memory slots. As we have already mentioned, MSI promptly launched the updated K9AGM3 with the number of memory slots increased to four. The K9AGM2-F is presently almost driven out of the market by the K9AGM2-L (with a Fast Ethernet controller instead of Gigabit one) and the K9AGM3-F (four memory slots instead of two).
Formoza FM2A692-GHG is a copy of the JetWay M2A692-GHG manufactured by Formoza, a Moscow company. So everything we said concerns both motherboards, including the fact that they are the cheapest products with HDMI support on the market. If you want a motherboard to be used with two monitors (a DVI adapter is included into the bundle, JetWay also has a GDG modification, where the DVI port is installed on the rear panel instead of HDMI), you may also pay attention to these motherboards because of their minimal prices.
Interestingly, despite the prices, the motherboards have interesting features. Frankly speaking, they don't produce an impression of budget solutions. The POST indicator is a nice option in the very least. And a wide choice of BIOS settings leads to record-breaking overclocking results among motherboards with integrated graphics in our roundup. Both brands are not associated with expensive products in the minds of consumers. But judging by real tests, this is the main reason for low prices, technical characteristics are evidently high. By the way, the Formoza product has an advantage over the JetWay one - it enjoys a three-year warranty (reliability issues are very important for inexpensive products).
Sapphire Pure Element (PE-AM2RS690MH) traditionally demonstrates excellent manufacturing quality. However, Sapphire's motherboard policy still focuses on PC manufacturers, these motherboards can be rarely found in retail stores. However, we don't see any special reasons to hunt for this Sapphire motherboard this time. Fortunately, the choice of decent products on AMD chipsets is definitely wider than that on ATI. Besides, this product does not have any proprietary features, except for the POST indicator and a backup BIOS chip. The motherboard does produce an impression of a produce for system integrators.
ECS AMD690GM-M2 is also intended for system integrators. However, it's also wide spread in retail stores. It's not expensive, which agrees well with its ascetic features. The motherboard has two memory slots (its maximum memory size is quite big, up to 16 GB, however 8 GB DDR2 modules will be too expensive, when they appear), it does not overclock well, and offers the simplest combination of video outputs - DVI and VGA.
Foxconn A690GM2MA-8KRS2H looks similar to the ECS product. It will also be a good choice for an office computer with two monitors. Interestingly, these motherboards demonstrate similar performance even in overclocked modes. But Foxconn raises the cost for another two memory slots as well as a model voltage regulator with the above-mentioned shielded chokes.
Gigabyte MA69VM-S2 is a rare example of a motherboard, which produces a nice impression when you start using it. It offers no outstanding features. Its functionality is based on the cheaper modification of the chipset. As a result, its rear panel houses only a VGA port and TV-Out (you will have to buy a proper bracket). We shall not enumerate our positive impressions, you can always read our review of the motherboard.
However, users of motherboards based on junior modifications of chipsets with integrated graphics usually don't appreciate technical nuances, so competitiveness of this motherboard is mostly determined by its price. If we also take into account that the choice of motherboards with a single VGA port is quite large, a roundup may include many motherboards on GeForce 6100 and several products on VIA K8M890, and sometimes even on SiS chipsets. In this case, AMD 690V will have an advantage of higher 3D performance and support for Windows Vista, because this chipset is similar to the 690G in processing power (the number of pipelines and clock rates). So it looks definitely better than its competitors here.