iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






ASUS M3N-H/HDMI Motherboard

Rare chipset and curious design.

October 2, 2008

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System monitoring (ITE IT8716F-S, BIOS Setup)

  • CPU voltage, +3.3 V, +5 V, and +12 V
  • RPM of three fans
  • CPU and board temperatures (by the corresponding embedded sensors)
  • Smart Q-Fan Function -- automatic rpm control of the CPU fan and chassis fan depending on CPU and system temperatures. You can only choose between Optimal, Silent, and Performance. Performance keeps fan speed close to maximum already at 40°C (CPU) and 30°C (board). Optimal is twice as slow at these temperatures, and Silent is even slower. Speed control is available for 3- and 4-pin fans. The new algorithm is much better than the old control logic used in most motherboards from ASUS, when only the Silent mode significantly reduced fan speed. This improvement may also spread to other motherboards with similar control logic (practically all modern motherboards from ASUS) in the updated BIOS versions.

Onboard ports, sockets, and connectors

  • Processor socket (Socket AM2, Socket AM2+ compatible, officially supports all Phenom X3/X4, Athlon 64/X2/FX, and Sempron processors for Socket AM2 and Socket AM2+ with TDP up to 125 W, the list of products, tested for compatibility, is published on the web site)
  • 4 x DDR2 SDRAM DIMM (up to 8 GB of DDR2-533/667/800/1066, dual-channel mode, the list of compatible devices is published on the web site)
  • 1 x PCIEx16 2.0
  • 2 x PCIEx1 2.0
  • 3 x PCI
  • Power connectors: standard ATX 2.2 (24 pins) and 4-pin ATX12V to power a processor
  • 1 x FDD
  • IDE (Parallel ATA) for two ATA133 devices -- chipset-based
  • 6 x chipset-based SATA-II (Serial ATA II) for six SATA300 devices, connected disks can form RAID 0, 1, 0+1, and 5
  • 3 connectors for rear panel brackets with 6 x USB
  • Connector for a Chassis Intrusion sensor
  • Connector for a bracket with a COM port
  • S/PDIF-Out connector
  • Connector for a bracket with a FireWire port
  • Connector for a bracket with a VGA port
  • 1 x CD/DVD audio connector
  • Connectors for analog audio ins and outs on the front panel
  • Three fan headers with rpm control, the 4-pin header for a CPU fan supports fine speed control and provides backward compatibility with 3-pin fans

Back panel (left to right, blockwise)

  • PS/2 keyboard and mouse, 2 x USB
  • Coaxial S/PDIF-Out
  • HDMI
  • 2 x USB and 1 x FireWire (IEEE 1394a)
  • 2 x USB and 1 x RJ-45 (Gigabit Ethernet)
  • 6 x Analog Audio (Center/Sub, Side-Out, Rear-Out, Line-In, Front-Out, Mic-In).

Package contents

  • Package: compact original box
  • Documentation: User Manual in English
  • 3 x SATA and power splitters for three devices
  • 1 x ATA66, 1 x FDD
  • Rear panel bracket with a VGA port
  • Q-Connectors
  • Rear I/O shield, which contacts the motherboard (short to ground) not through the sticking out pin (always tries to creep to a LAN port), but through a soft springy foil pad
  • HDMI-DVI adapter
  • CD with drivers and ASUS utilities

Proprietary utilities include: ASUS Update (to flash BIOS in Windows, to search and download the latest version from the official web site), PC Probe II (to monitor system parameters), AI Suite (to overclock the system and control Smart Q-Fan modes), Express Gate Lite (to access Internet and browse photos without booting into an operating system).

Integrated controllers

  • Audio, based on the Realtek ALC1200 HDA codec, 7.1-ch audio, front line-ins/outs, CD-In, and two S/PDIF-Out jacks
  • Gigabit Ethernet 10/100/1000 Mbps based on the chipset MAC and Atheros Attansic F1 PHY controller (PCI Express) supporting AI NET 2 (monitors network cable status)
  • FireWire, based on the LSI FW322 chip, supporting two FireWire IEEE 1394a ports

The integrated audio quality (Realtek driver 1.96) was tested in the 16 bit 44 kHz mode using RightMark Audio Analyzer 6.0.5 and the ESI Juli@ sound card:

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB: +0.02, -0.03 Excellent
Noise level, dB (A): -87.1 Good
Dynamic range, dB (A): 87.1 Good
THD, %: 0.0052 Very good
THD + Noise, %: -80.1 Good
Intermodulation distortion + Noise, %: 0.013 Very good
Channel crosstalk, dB: -86.2 Excellent
IMD at 10 kHz, %: 0.013 Very good

General performance: Very good. It's probably the best codec nowadays, although objective results obtained with this motherboard are a tad lower compared to M3A-H/HDMI.

Important note about the driver version: the driver on the bundled CD and generally Realtek drivers 1.86 or older do not work correctly -- no sound in one channel or distortions in intermodulation tests. Download the latest drivers from Realtek's website.

Proprietary technologies and peculiarities

  • AI Net 2 detects cable damages - LAN Cable Status option in BIOS
  • EZ Flash 2 allows to flash BIOS using a built-in utility (it allows to read BIOS images from a floppy, memory stick, or compact disc in BIOS Setup
  • Express Gate Lite is a proprietary shell with programs (browser, IM client, skype, and photo album) to use without booting into an operating system.

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Article navigation:

Page 1: Introduction, design

Page 2: Interfaces, package, controllers

Page 3: BIOS, performance, conclusions

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