Asus P5E-VM HDMI motherboard
Integrated DX10 graphics from Intel. Who'd've thought it
Review At first glance, Asus' P5E-VM HDMI looks like a regular Micro-ATX design with the usual crop of integrated features. But when you take a good close look you’ll see just how much Asus has managed to cram in.
Asus' P5E-VM HDMI: packs in features a-plenty
The board's Intel G35 chipset supports LGA775 Core 2 processors, including the latest 'Penryn' chips, on a 1333MHz FSB. The four memory slots can accommodate up to 8GB of 800MHz DDR memory. There’s a PCI Express (PCIe) x16 expansion slot, a couple of PCIe x1 slots and a PCI slot, and also you get stacks of options for storage. In addition to a floppy connector and an ATA-133 connector that hangs off a JMicron controller, there are six 3Gbps SATA 2 connectors with every form of RAID that you might care to try, courtesy of the ICH9R southbridge I/O chip. The only possible quibble here is the absence of eSATA.
Above the top-most PCIe x1 expansion slot there’s a curious riser card that carries a chip which is printed with the legend ASM4136. We have no idea what this hardware does - we're awaiting an answer from Asus on this one.
You don’t get any brackets in the package but even so the list of ports and connectors is extensive. On the I/O panel there are two legacy PS/2 ports for mouse and keyboard; six USB 2.0 ports with three headers on board for six more ports if your case supports them; six audio jacks and a coaxial digital output for the Realtek audio; and a single Firewire port. Gigabit Ethernet is provided by Atheros, which is the first time we’ve seen Atheros silicon on a motherboard, but the really interesting thing here is the integrated graphics - and that’s not something we often say about Intel hardware.
The G35 chipset includes the GMA X3500 graphics core, which is based on the GMA X3000 from the G965 chipset that was released last year. The X in the GMA model code marks a significant break from previous Intel graphics cores which were, to be frank, a bit feeble. Intel didn’t spell out the details of the G965 at launch so we were somewhat taken by surprise to find that a driver update transformed this Shader Model 2.0 part into a Shader Model 3.0 chip.
It turned out that GMA X3000 used eight unified shaders instead of discrete vertex and pixel shaders so the initial driver release reported that the core supported Pixel Shader 2.0 and had no hardware vertex shaders. A driver update made the graphics core compliant with Shader Model 3.0 and DirectX 9.0c so Intel was able to get the hardware out of the door and then continue to work on its development in a gallant effort to fully support the Aero interface in Windows Vista.
Linux Drivers available
@Andrew Meredith: According to www.intellinuxgraphics.org/documentation.html the G35 chipset is supported
HDMI and video details: P5E-VM HDMI
HDMI is 1.2, and passes 7.1 channel 24 bit LPCM audio at up to 96kHz if fed it by software. The path from the G35 to the HDMI audio is not "protected", so some software solutions like PowerDVD Ultra will downconvert to 16 bit 48kHz (like it does with analog right now).
G35 does full decode of MPEG2 in XP, but is handicapped by a bug in Vista which will keep full decode away until Vista SP1. It does motion-compensation and in-loop filtering on VC-1, but not the full decode, and provides no acceleration of H,264 (the CPU has to do the whole thing).
Supports HDCP and Blu-ray/HD DVD (Vista Only).
Which version HDMI ?
Anyone advise which standard of HDMI is adopted on this mobo. The latest spec is v1.3, which includes Deep Color, Lip Sync and Dolby TrueHD sound.....which reminds me - does this board output 7.1 sound via the HDMI?
Yes I'm thinking of building an HTPC to replace my clunky Packard Bell HDD recorder sat under my telly.
I haven't obviously built it yet, but I'd aim for Blu-Ray support, obviously complete with HDCP support - need to learn more about how to get XP or Vista Media Centre working fine with HDCP content.
I would most certainly only build my unit for use with an HD telly, it being a lounge thing. It must fully support 1080p decoding and be quick about it - which is why I'd aim for the HDMI connector like this mobo has (see below though).
Audio wise, I'm not sure, I've never been a big fan of trailing loads of cables all over the place just for 5.1 surround. Its not that important to me. Would be nice tho but all the cables wud make me think I'm in something out of a HR Giger drawing.
I would want a certain amount of grunt out of its CPU, but a unified video decoder would be an obvious advantage even if the CPU could do 1080p decoding itself.
I would not aim for a celeron or a low voltage mobile type CPU, rather a fast CPU with a decent cooling solution, I'd then put the HTPC in a cabinet of some description for noise control.
The point of the good CPU is for decent games like Crysis, and so a mobo like this review would not be what I aim for. If anything I would aim for a non-HDMI motherboard, with a decent gfx card with an HDMI connector.
But it would have to run relatively silently for the living room.
I don't ask much do I! ;-)
The way I see it, if I'm shelling out for a system to watch TV on, I might as well make it a decent gaming platform too - but maybe not up in the Nvidia 8800 ranks though cos it'll run too noisy.
I too agree that it was totally pointless of Intel to make it a DX10 chipset. Were they honestly expecting people to ooh and aah over the X3500? Its a joke.
Its like trying to streamline an elephant with go faster stripes and aerodynamics!
Intel should get their chipsets average frames per second up there before even contemplating DX10 support.
Linux Drivers ?
Are there any Linux display drivers for this board? It would make an excellent little MythTV client box if it does.