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For a board that costs more than US$200, the feature list for the i915Ga-HFS
seems a bit short. As mentioned, the bulk of the features are aimed
at the home theater market. No less than five different video-out connectors
are included, as well as full 7.1 surround jacks for audio, although the jacks
are not the RCA connectors used by most A/V equipment. Surprisingly, S/PDIF
audio is only supported through an internal header for which no external
bracket is provided.
The lack of easy S/PDIF support is quite a serious omission, at least in the US or Canada. Its hard to imagine
anyone using a set of computer speakers in a serious home theater system, but
it's possible that in Japan, AOpen's primary market for this product, there may be better options than we typically see here. Without S/PDIF it is difficult to hook up an external receiver. Anyone
wanting to connect the i915Ga-HFS to an existing speaker system will need to
purchase a separate S/PDIF adapter. This could be difficult for an end user, but it would have been easy for AOpen to include with the motherboard.
Luckily, there should be no problem hooking up multiple displays. The following
video connections are supported:
- S-Video (no S-Video to Composite dongle is included)
- RCA-Component Video
- D4-Component Video
With the exception of the D4 connector, all of these should be familiar. The
is a single-plug connector that carries a standard component video signal. It
is used only on Japanese A/V equipment, and does not seem to be slated for worldwide
It is far from clear how well these five connectors function in conjunction
with each other. AOpen has helpfully included a table in the manual that is
supposed to show what combinations are valid, but the table is either wrong
or incomplete, as it conflicts with the textual information. It would appear
that a maximum of two independent pictures are supported at any given time,
but its not clear whether the same picture can appear on multiple displays
and, if so, in what configurations.
Lots of Video connectors, but no PS/2 or S/PDIF connectors.
To make room for all of the video connections, almost all of the "legacy"
ports have been removed from the rear panel. That means no parallel port, no
serial ports... and no PS/2 ports. There is an internal header for a parallel
port, but adapters that allow them to be attached to a standard cable can be
quite hard to come by. Fortunately, a PCI bracket for a PS/2 keyboard is included,
but anyone still using a PS/2 mouse is out of luck the only PS/2 header
is wired for use with just a keyboard.
Another common feature that's missing is RAID support. This is
quite odd, as AOpens previous i915GMm-HFS
did support RAID, despite having only two SATA connectors. It is another feature
that may be missed in a home theater PC, since a large amount of video storage
is easier to manage as a single RAID 0 array than as multiple volumes across
several drives. That said, remote storage is often a more practical solution
than trying to jam all that storage into a small HTPC case.
For a full ATX board, the number of expansion slots 3 PCI plus one 16x
PCI Express is quite limited. What, no 1x PCIe, you say? True, there
is a physical slot included on the motherboard, but take a closer look at the
photo below. Notice how the bottom edges of the two PCI express slots (black and orange) don't
align with each other? What you see here is known in the business as a...
mistake. AOpen has admitted bravely in their FAQ for the board that the misalignment makes the slot unusable...
"Q7287: Does i915Ga-HFS support PCIe x1?
No, for some mechanical issue with the PCIe x1 slot on this motherboard, it will not support PCIe x1 devices. We will also cancel the slots in the future. Truly sorry for the confusing."
...and removed the slot from the spec sheet. Hopefully, their quality control
has been adjusted to catch future instances as well.
The PCIe 1x slot should be aligned with the 16x slot on the left, not the
PCI slot on the right.
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