Gigabyte GA-MA74GM-S2: AMD 690G, Take 2

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A board's layout is important in several regards. The positioning of components can dictate compatibility with other products (third party heatsinks mainly) and also ease of installation. Poorly placed power connectors can also airflow and make the system more thermally challenging.

Bird's eye view.

At first glance, the layout is eeriely similar to the MA78GM-S2H. From connector placement to heatsink construction, the boards appear identical with only one exception — the new board has only two memory slots. As 2GB DIMMs are now widely available, this shouldn't be a concern unless you plan on using more than 4GB of RAM. The lack of memory slots is really the only clue that this is a budget motherboard — Gigabyte has provided 4 USB expansion headers and 6 SATA ports, unheard of in the $60 price range. The layout is good, with all connectors on the edges and there are two fan headers, both of the 4-pin, PWM variety.

Viewed from the side.

The chipset heatsinks are well designed with many thin fins, though the one sitting atop the northbridge is much shorter than normal — this is necessary due to its close proximity to the PCI-E 1x expansion slot. To cut costs, only the capacitors that handle CPU power regulation are of the solid-state variety.

Back panel connectors.

The back panel isn't loaded with outputs, but it does offer enough to satisfy most users. Both VGA and DVI outputs are provided as well as a coaxial S/PDIF port. No HDMI unfortunately as it is a low-cost solution. The PS/2 mouse port has been done away with, so be sure to have a USB mouse handy.

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