Ever since AMD bought ATI, we've been waiting to see what could be achieved by combining the minds of these two juggernauts. The first offering comes in the form of a new chipset: the 690. This comes in two flavours - the cut-down 690V and the more exciting 690G - and this is one of the first motherboards to feature the 690G.

At first glance, this might not be an exciting product. After all, it's got integrated graphics. But this is a cut above the standard integrated graphics controller. And media centre or business PCs looking to satisfy Vista's graphics needs will require something with this grunt.

Another trump card for the 690G is its support for HDMI (high definition media interface). HDMI takes the best bits of DVI (digital visual interface) and adds digital sound. It's a far more elegant solution to connecting your PC and keeps untidy cabling to a minimum. It's likely to become the dominant audiovisual interface.

So who is this board aimed at? Certainly not performance enthusiasts and gamers. Compared to existing Intel integrated video, the 690G works extremely well. But we struggled to get into double figures on most of today's most demanding games.

However, if you're looking to put together a media centre PC, this is a perfect board. Not only are the integrated graphics - which can be upgraded at a later date using the PCI connector - and HDMI fine for such a purpose, this small-form factor motherboard uses passive cooling. With fewer fans than is generally the case, the motherboard generates considerably less noise.

The Gigabit ethernet connector is another nice touch, and will make this a perfect addition to any home network.

MSI K9AGM2-FIH: Specs

  • AM2 socket
  • AMD 690G chipset
  • FSB 1000
  • 2 x DDR2 DIMMS
  • 1 x PCI Express x16 slot
  • 1 x PCI Express x1 slot
  • 2 PCI slots
  • 4 x Sata II ports
  • Realtek ALC888 onboard sound
  • Gigabit ethernet
  • 3 x USB 2.0
  • HDMI
  • AM2 socket
  • AMD 690G chipset
  • FSB 1000
  • 2 x DDR2 DIMMS
  • 1 x PCI Express x16 slot
  • 1 x PCI Express x1 slot
  • 2 PCI slots
  • 4 x Sata II ports
  • Realtek ALC888 onboard sound
  • Gigabit ethernet
  • 3 x USB 2.0
  • HDMI

OUR VERDICT

Aimed very much at the media centre crowd, this motherboard has the features and the passive cooling to make it a hit in the living room. The popularity of media centre systems looks likely to increase in the future, and the 690G chipset could be beautifully positioned to produce some excellent motherboards with just such a market in mind.

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