Asus M3N78 Pro: Geforce 8300 & HybridPower Explored

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BIOS options on mATX boards are typically very spartan. The presence of an IGP and the more limited cooling associated with an mATX platform makes manufacturers nervous about allowing users the ability to customize their clock/voltage settings. ATX boards are usually more tweaker-friendly and the M3N78 Pro follows the norms, to an extent.

Advanced options.

There are few customizable settings in the Advanced BIOS menu. However, the available options are are fairly flexible. CPU frequency can be increased up to 600Mhz, PCI-E frequency can be locked, and both CPU and memory voltages can be tweaked to high limits.

Notable BIOS Adjustments
CPU Frequency 200Mhz to 600Mhz in 1Mhz increments
PCI-E Frequency 100Mhz to 200Mhz in 1Mhz increments
Memory Frequency 533/667/800Mhz (may depend on CPU)
Memory Timings None
CPU Voltage 0.8000V to 1.6750V in 0.0125V increments
Memory Voltage 1.978V to 2.490V in varying increments (0.750-0.102V)
Northbridge Voltage 1.213V, 1.313V, 1.409V
1.2V HT 1.309V, 1.425V, 1.525V
Video Memory Size 64MB, 128MB, 256MB, 512MB

Northbridge and "1.2V HT" (which we assume is southbridge) voltages are limited to only three settings and memory timing options are non-existent — they aren't even displayed. We also weren't able to find a HT multiplier setting; it usually needs to be lowered when overclocking.

Hardware Monitor.

The Hardware Monitor section is simple, yet offers plenty of functionality. Fan speeds are reported from all three fan headers on the board, and the 4-pin CPU and Chassis fan headers can be controlled via the Q-Fan feature. The same three fan control profiles can be found on all Asus motherboards: Performance, Optimal, and Silent. The CPU fan header can be set to either PWM or DC voltage control, but there is no automatic setting. Be aware of this if you plan to use a 3-pin fan in conjunction with this header.


Express Gate menu.

Asus Express Gate is a recently added feature that allows users almost instant access to a web browser, photo viewer, chat client (Pidgin) and VOIP (Skype). It is powered by Splashtop, an instant-on Linux desktop developed by DeviceVM. Instead of waiting for up to a minute for the main operating system to boot-up, Express Gate is available as soon as the system POSTs. It offers limited functionality, but if you're in a hurry, it works well in a pinch. It can also be upgraded with software updates.

YouTube anyone?

If the majority of your PC time is spent on the internet, you should feel right at home with Express Gate. You can get a lot done on the web — programs that live strictly online are becoming rapidly popular. Some believe that the internet is the next great operating system — that as long as you can get online, the choice between Windows, Mac OS X and Linux will be moot. Either way, Express Gate is the fastest way on a desktop computer to watch a movie trailer or a deranged Scotsman interview a young Hollywood starlet.

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