Asus P5E-VM HDMI: A microATX C2D board for gamers?

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Asus has produced a compelling product with the P5E-VM HDMI. The Intel chipsets provide a huge range of features and an improved graphics engine. Asus built upon those strengths by implementing solid-state capacitors, an admirable fan control system, and a wide-open BIOS that makes the board a surprisingly good overclocker. This last capability really separates it from the rest of the pack. Unless the extra expansion slots are required, it's a serious contender for power users and gamers, which can't be said of the majority of mATX mainboards. Housed in a good mATX case such as the Antec NSK3480 or a Silverstone TJ08, the P5E-VM HDMI mated with a good gaming graphics card could form the heart of a quiet, small, yet powerful gaming rig. Despite the improvements in image and video quality of the GX3500 integrated graphics, no gamer could be happy with its performance in modern 3D games (for reasons detailed explicitly from this gaming-oriented review posted by the Register just a couple of days ago.)

The board's higher power requirements probably wouldn't be noticed by other reviewers, but energy efficiency is a characterstic we've examined and valued for years. Power consumption was generally higher; with a faster and more advanced DX10 GPU, this may have been unavoidable. A lower limit for CPU undervolting would be nice to see, as the current 1.10V is basically the same as SpeedStep. Minimizing CPU voltage can result in substantial reduction of power consumption. Lower CPU voltage options could easily be implemented in a new BIOS release.

On a more practical level, the board is expected to retail initially for $150~200 — lofty pricing for a mATX board. ($132 was the lowest online price we found just moments before this review was posted.) For HTPC applications, AM2-based mATX boards have developed nicely, offering excellent integrated graphics with both nVidia and AMD690G chipsets, and usually selling at prices under $100. It will be interesting to see whether the higher pricing of this Asus is mirrored in G35 mATX boards from other brands. Whatever the initial selling prices are, we expect it won't be long before they slide downwards, in the pattern common to almost all in consumer IT products.

The Asus P5E-VM HDMI is not the perfect product for a silent or green PC, but for all other purposes, it's close to perfect. The new X3500 integrated graphics core is Intel's best thus far, and it provides a nice boost, making HD video possible on this board even with the slowest of Core 2 processors being produced by Intel today. Finally, if you are an enthusiast who has been longing for a socket-775 mATX board with the overclocking prowess of a premium ATX board, your wait is officially over.


* Long list of features
* Multiple video and audio outputs
* Superb high definition playback
* Solid-state capacitors
* Good fan control
* Overclocks suprisingly well
(if the onboard video is disabled)

* Undervolting is limited
* Higher power consumption compared to the G33 chipset
* Price

Our thanks to ASUSTeK for this motherboard sample.

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Articles of Related Interest

Intel DG33TL mATX mainboard
Asus M2A-VM HDMI: AM2 mATX motherboard
Hiper Media Center Barebones PC
Albatron KI690-AM2: A Mini-ITX Powerhouse
AOpen i945GTt-VFA m-ITX C2D motherboard

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