Being a reference board there is no fancy packaging or bundles, just the board itself, surrounded by bubble wrap and a CD containing drivers and some other info.
On the board we can see an AMD AM2 CPU socket, four DDR2 memory slots, four S-ATA connectors, two IDE connectors, one Floppy Drive, one PCIe x16 slot, two PCIe x1 slots, one AMR slot and two PCI slots.
The back panel consists of keyboard and mouse PS2 ports, VGA output, sound jacks for the 7.1 channel surround sound, SPDIF Coaxial input and output, a 10 / 100 / 1000 Mb network port and two USB 2.0 ports.
The integrated graphics use SiS's Mirage 3 Graphics Engine, which is DirectX 9 and Shader 2.0 compliant and supports high def video for TV or LCD displays. It shares system memory from which you can allocate 32, 64 or 128 MB. Of course, with the inclusion if an x16 PCI express slot you also have the option of using a discrete graphics card and disabling the onboard one.
Testing was done with an AMD AM2 Athlon X2 3800+ processor, two Corsair 1GB DDR2 memory sticks, WD Raptor 74GB SATA HDD and an Enermax 500W PSU.
SiSoftware Sandra 07 does shows us that by sharing 128MB of the system memory to the embedded graphics, memory performance takes a bit of a hit, although it is still quite similar to other boards using integrated graphics, and with a discrete graphics card performance is on a par with other similarly ranged non-integrated motherboards.
When using a discrete graphics card PCMark05 shows the SiS board competing well with other boards of a similar ilk, but the overall score does take a hit if you use the integrated Mirage 3 graphics.
Obviously, the type of 3DMark score you would get using a discrete graphics card depends a lot on what card you use, but using the integrated graphics 3DMark05 manages to get its chin just over the 330 point mark. I did try Far Cry at this point, but even on the basic settings it was virtually unplayable so I didn't even try any other games.
If you're not using this board for gaming then all is not lost, image quality and in particular video playback do look very good, runs smoothly and, as mentioned earlier, the video architecture is designed with high definition in mind making it a good choice for an HTPC or similar entertainment machine. It's also designed to work well with Vista's shiny new 3D Aero effects, although that remains to be seen. If you do want to do some gaming then you're going to need to factor a separate graphics card into your equation.
As long as you don't go crazy with add-ons this board has very low power requirements which has two knock on effects, firstly you don't need a monster of a PSU to run it and secondly it runs remarkably cool. You may have noticed the southbridge doesn't have a heat sink. Once again proving this is perfect for small form factor boards.
The sound is perfectly standard from an AC'97 chip and with its full eight channels will happily run any variety of surround sound system attached to it. As with the graphics, audio performance can be optionally enhanced by adding a dedicated PCI sound card.
Overall this board performs very well and suggests good things for retail motherboards based on its design. This architecture should translate very nicely into midrange and HTPC boards. The onboard graphics are definitely not suited for gaming, but if that really matters then there is always the option of adding a separate graphics card.
The design is perfectly suited for the mainstream market and will make a good basis for a midrange machine that will run all your average applications and should come in a very appealing price. ?
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