Albatron KI690-AM2: A Mini-ITX Powerhouse

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FINAL THOUGHTS

Despite being part of a niche market, the KI690 can be adopted for many functions. If you simply want a small, efficient box for general use, it fits the bill. Install a fast processor, plenty of RAM and a RAID array and you've got a lean, mean, video or audio editing machine. However, it's best suited as a HTPC and it is clear that is Albatron's intention. The KI690-AM2 is positioned as a compact, yet powerful multimedia solution and it succeeds where it should: Low power consumption, versatile connectivity options and good high definition playback in a tiny package. That all this is accomplished without resorting to any additional components (such as a PCIe video card) makes it all the more impressive.

Of course it also has its share of faults, especially from a silent PC perspective. Those of us who chase the lowest power consumption possible will be disappointed as the incredibly draconian BIOS lacks underclocking and undervolting options. Those seeking lower noise will need to resort to physical modification/replacement of the CPU fan or an external fan controller due to the ineffective fan control.

Still, the Albatron KI690-AM2 performs exactly as designed and expected, and it's difficult to find fault with that, especially since it's the only product of its kind. There's much to like and little to complain about. With the right pricing and distribution, the Albatron KI690-AM2 has the potential to become a mini-ITX board for the masses.

PROS

* Fastest Mini-ITX platform to date
* Impressive feature-set
* Variety of video/audio outputs
* Good high definition playback
* Low power consumption
* Excellent chipset heatsink
CONS

* Extremely restrictive BIOS
* Poor fan control
* No VC-1 audio in XP (a chipset problem not isolated to this board)

NOTE: Pricing and availability remain unclear. The original MSRP was supposedly US$350, which is too high for a board without a CPU. However, there have been reports of the KI690-AM2 advertised in Japan for around 30,000 yen, currently equivalent to US$260.

Much thanks to Albatron for this motherboard sample.

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