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Intel is spearheading the mobile market yet again with the launch of their Centrino Duo mobile technology and Core Duo processors; another milestone for the mobile market. This is all well and good for notebook junkies as the dual-core craze has landed right on their laps, promising multi-threaded performance boosts and more power saving features than ever before. But what about the older Centrino platform? We know that Intel will continue offering it for the current Pentium M (Dothans) and though there's no sign of phasing them out yet, their role will ultimately be diminished in the mobile world.
Now take one step back and examine market trends in a wider perspective, we think that the Pentium Ms are in a good position to star in another stage altogether – inside Home Theater PCs (HTPC). In 2005, digital home theater and convergence technology rapidly gained ground as the next big thing for the PC. This movement was more or less spurred by the role the computer industry took in making digital media formats mainstream. The biggest obstacle for any user trying to put up a HTPC system was of course the intricacies of building a PC and the conundrum of building one that is powerful, yet silent and actually looks like it belongs in the living room.
This brings us back to the Pentium M microprocessor. Being a notebook processor, the Pentium Ms were naturally designed for the best performance per watt efficiency and they have become the darlings of quiet computing enthusiasts looking for a silent desktop. While mobile processors have also been sought after in HTPC designs for the very same reasons, they were not powerful enough to handle today's demanding high definition video decoding tasks without additional hardware acceleration. Since this is another problem that has been taken care off by the graphics industry, with major graphics vendors like ATI and NVIDIA pledging support for HD, H.264 and other pre/post-processing functions on the GPU itself, the processor is relieved of almost every graphical/video processing task. Thus, the Pentium M has already established a foothold in a growing market in the PC industry.
Motherboards like AOpen's i915GMm-HFS are an affirmation to this fact. The board isn't exactly new in the market, but it caters to a niche and we think this is an opportune time to showcase what is in store for the HTPC DIY-er. In this review, we take a look at this very board and examine how AOpen might have developed a new category of motherboards that break tradition, in the sense that they are specifically designed not for the PC industry, but for CE (ala HTPC).
Firstly, before we begin, custom dictates that we provide the product bundle and its technical specifications:-
- 2 x SATA data cables
- 2 x SATA power converter cables
- 1 x 80-conductor Ultra ATA data cable
- 1 x floppy drive data cable
- PS/2 Keyboard port bracket
- 2 x S/PDIF optical converters
- CPU cooler and mounting bracket
- I/O shield
- Driver CD
- User's manual
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