ASUS P5E-VM HDMI
- HDCP-capable HDMI port, good performance, plenty of ports and slots, dual-monitor support
- Chipset heat sink gets very hot, CPU fan pin-header is located far from the CPU socket
This board's size, connectivity options and performance make it an ideal choice for anyone who wants to build a small, yet potent PC. It's ideal for a home-theatre PC, yet it's also suitable for a typical PC.
Price$ 249.00 (AUD)
Aimed at users who want a compact motherboard for a home theatre PC, the P5E-VM HDMI certainly has plenty of enticing features and, despite being an integrated design, it doesn't sacrifice on performance.
It's an Intel-based board, which can accept any of Intel's Core 2 Duo CPUs, it accepts up to 8GB of DDR2 memory, and because it harnesses the compact size of the microATX form factor, it will easily fit in small, flat enclosures, as well as towers.
The P5E-VM relies on Intel's new G35 integrated graphics chipset, yet it also has a full-size PCI Express slot for a graphics dedicated card. The board has built-in D-Sub and HDMI ports, which is convenient for users who have big TVs with these types of connections, and we can confirm that the HDMI port does support HDCP.
We tested the board's ability to process high-definition movies with its integrated graphics by playing Blu-ray discs in an ASUS BC1205PT Blu-ray player. We connected the board's HDMI port to an HDCP-capable NEC monitor and hit the play button on CyberLink's PowerDVD software. The board ran our movies without any problems; images were smooth and the audio didn't crackle.
Using the most powerful processor in our possession to test the board -- an Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850 -- along with 2GB of DDR2 SDRAM, but most Core 2 Duo CPUs should be able to run Blu-ray movies just fine, too.
In WorldBench 6, which runs a slew of office, compression and video applications, the board recorded 115. This result isn't super-fast, but it's also not slow, especially considering that up to 384MB of system RAM was being used by the integrated Intel X3500 graphics chip. What this means is that the P5E-VM can also be used effectively as an all-in-one solution for an office or bedroom PC.
The board's dynamic fan control means that fan speeds, and therefore noise, can be kept at a minimum, and the chipset on the board itself is cooled only by a heat sink. The chipset's heat sink does absorb a lot of heat, so the surrounding enclosure will need to have adequate ventilation so that it can be dispersed.
For such a little board, an impressive amount of ports and slots are on offer. Along with six ready-to-use USB 2.0 ports (six more ports are available via pin-headers), there are six SATA ports, two PCI Express x1, one PCI Express x16 and one PCI slots. Floppy and IDE ports are added for good measure. One FireWire port is present (another is available via a pin-header on the motherboard), one gigabit Ethernet port, as well as 8-channel analogue and digital audio ports, and the aforementioned D-Sub and HDMI ports. Conveniently, both ports can be used simultaneously, which means that a dual-monitor setup can be used, as long as one monitor has an HDMI port (or an HDMI to DVI adapter is used).
The layout of the board is neat and the location of the internal pin-headers and ports should minimise the cable clutter in most cases (all of the USB and FireWire headers are located along the bottom edge of the board), but the CPU fan pin-header is located too far from the CPU socket. Users need to make sure their cooler is attached with the start of the cable located towards the CPU fan header. There are two other fan pin-headers on the board, which can be used to attach case and power supply fans. The BIOS can monitor and regulate the spin speed of these fans, which is good news for users who want to build a silent system.
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