Gigabyte MA69GM-S2H Motherboard Review - AMD690 Update
Layout and Features
Besides getting an update from AMD's BIOS development group, the Gigabyte MA69GM-S2H is a great motherboard in other aspects including features and overclocking.
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We are looking at a mATX motherboard here which hinders the ability for Gigabyte to offer a lot of expansion room, but enables users to choose between a standard system build and more compact SFF systems for a possible home theater implementation.
The AM2 processor socket on the Gigabyte MA69GM-S2H board is a little claustrophobic with the tall capacitors to the left of it and DIMM slots and north bridge heatsink completing the surroundings. Obviously the standard AM2 AMD heatsink fit on the motherboard just fine, as did the water block for the Koolance kit we use from time to time.
Those four DIMM slots support DDR2 speeds up to 667 MHz (stock). I don't like the fact that the memory banks should be filled from left to right in order for dual-channel memory modes; it means that you have to place the two DIMMs right next to each other for a standard install. That means less air flow between the modules, lesser cooling, etc.
The expansion configuration on the board is a bit lacking -- thanks mainly to its mATX form factor. You get two legacy PCI slots, one PCIe x16 slot and one x4 PCIe slot. If you decide to use a discrete graphics card you'll lose, maybe two of the legacy PCI slots to the GPUs cooler.
The bottom of the motherboard shows off some of the other features of the Gigabyte board. The south bridge, the SB600, is covered by a small passive heatsink over the BIOS battery and below the DIMM slot retention arms. There are four SATA channels here as well, facing to the right of the motherboard: a good choice considering the already tight space limitations.
Below the legacy PCI slots you'll find the audio connections, two Firewire and a single USB header for additional ports.
Things get real interesting here! Besides the standard PS2 slots, four USB 2.0 connectors, Firewire connector, Gigabit Ethernet port and 8-channels of analog audio, the Gigabyte MA69GM-S2H has an array of great features. That includes an optical output for digital audio, an analog VGA output, digital DVI output and even an HDMI connection. If you plan on using this motherboard for a home theater setup, then that is a very big plus indeed.
Finally we come to the included extras -- a little bare again but all in an attempt to lower costs to the end user. You will get a case back panel, two USB 2.0 cables, a component video output dongle (for those users with HDTVs without HDMI connections, drivers and an IDE and floppy cable.