Asus P5N7A-VM: Geforce 9300 IGP

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FINAL THOUGHTS

On paper, the Asus P5N7A-VM is very similar to the P5Q-EM, but, head-to-head in the real world, the GeForce 9300 board came out on top in almost every way. The P5N7A-VM pulled less power from the wall (the lowest we've ever recorded for a board of its type), was more efficient at handling high defintion video playback, and delivered much better 3D performance.

While the P5Q-EM provides more elaborate CPU / chipset / memory BIOS options, the P5N7A-VM actually overclocked better out of the box without modifying any voltages. It also allows adjustment of the IGP's clock and shader frequencies. Unfortunately, it could not undervolt as well, failing to POST when the CPU voltage was set below 0.93125V. The P5Q-EM, on the other hand, could be set to its minimum 0.850V, but the difference in voltage only allowed the P5Q-EM to pull even in terms of overall power consumption when our E7200 CPU was underclocked.

The feature lists of the two boards are almost identical. The P5N7A-VM adds a DisplayPort output and eSATA on the back panel, while the P5Q-EM has FireWire instead (eSATA is offered via an adapter). The P5N7A-VM is also a bit cheaper, though still fairly expensive at $130.

The Asus P5N7A-VM is probably not a good choice for a simple file server or light-use machine given its price and feature-list, but it would be perfect for an HTPC or any situation where you would need the processing power of an Intel Core 2 processor in a small package. We're happy to see that nVidia not only gave Intel a run for their money, but solidly beat them in most areas. It hit all the right buttons with us: features, power consumption, video playback, and especially overall efficiency. The P5Q-EM is a good board, but the P5N7A-VM is simply better. nVidia: Welcome back — you've been missed.

Asus P5N7A-VM

PROS

* Low power consumption
* Efficient video playback
* Decent 3D performance
* Good feature-set, connectivity
* 2 controllable fan headers


CONS

* Price
* Unstable at lower CPU voltages



Our thanks to ASUSTeK for the Asus P5N7A-VM sample.

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Intel DG35EC: G35 mainstream mATX board
Intel D945GCLF m-ITX: Atom For The Desktop
Zotac NF610i-ITX: A Compact Core 2 Solution

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