Meet The Candidates
The Gigabyte GA-MA69GM-S2H features AMD's latest 690G integrated chipset and has a socket AM2 for Athlon and Semperon CPUs. It is currently listed for around $80 making it an attractive board for the price alone. It has DVI and D-Sub connections for monitors as well as HDMI built into the board. With integrated audio, four SATA ports, four to six USB ports and a Firewire (IEEE 1934a) connection, this board looks to be ready for anything.
The Asus P5B-VM motherboard has Intel's G965 chipset with GMA X3000 integrated graphics. It also has integrated audio, four SATA ports, up to six USB ports and a Firewire (IEEE 1934a) connection. However, it only has a D-Sub graphics output. It is currently priced at around $110 with Socket 775 for Intel Core 2 Extreme, Core 2 Duo, Pentium D and Celeron CPUs.
AMD/ATI HD 2400XT
MSI GeForce 8500 GT (Model: TD256E)
We also used the AMD HD 2400XT, which is an AMD reference design, with two different graphics cards. The second card is MSI's NX8500GT and is based on Nvidia's 8500 GT processor. The HD 2400XT retails for around $75 while the GeForce 8500 GT goes for $70. Both are DX10 based graphics cards, which also have dedicated hardware for video decode for HD DVD and BluRay discs encoded with either VC-1 or H.264.