If you are looking to build an HTPC or media center PC, there are many Micro-ATX motherboards to choose from. But one that may have escaped your eye is the I-N73HD from Abit; which would be a shame as it’s a well featured board with a nice, low price tag.
Built on a startling orange PCB, the I-N73HD uses Nvidia’s GeForce 7100 / nForce 630i single-chip chipset solution, which is hidden under a small passive heatsink. The chipset supports Intel’s Socket 775 range of processors, with 1,333, 1,066 and 800MHz FSB speeds, including the latest 45nm CPUs.
As the chipset is a single-chip solution there is plenty of space around the components; in fact so much space that it’s a little disappointing to find only two DIMM slots, as it looks like there is enough room on the board for another two. But given the board’s price point and intended use it’s understandable why there are only two slots. Anyway, they can support up to 4GB of DDR-800 (PC2-6400) memory.
The integrated 7100 graphics has a core clock that runs at 600MHz and shares anything from 64MB up to a maximum of 256MB of system memory. It supports both DirectX 9 and Shader model 3.0 but, as you might expect from an integrated graphics solution, the gaming performance isn’t that great, scoring just over 1,000 in PCMark05 and just over 500 in 3DMark06.
But that isn’t the point of a board like this; it’s all about watching movies and videos, and for this the integrated GeForce 7100 is perfectly adequate. However, should you want some gaming flexibility there is a single x16 PCI-E slot (1.0 spec) so you can add in a dedicated graphics card.
Along with the graphics slot there are two standard PCI slots and a single x1 PCI-E slot which you could use for a TV card. The four SATA 3.0Gbps ports are mounted close to the bottom of the board. But one of the main reasons the I-N73HD makes a good base for an HTPC or media center PC is to be found on the rear I/O panel, namely an HDMI port which has a signal transfer rate of up to 5GBps.
Joining the HDMI port on the back panel are four USB 2.0 ports, six audio and a single optical S/PDIF ports for the integrated 7.1 audio controlled by a Realtek ALC888 chip. There’s also a LAN port that connects to the onboard Gigabit Ethernet controller, and you get a standard D-Sub VGA port (but no DVI port), a FireWire port and two PS/2 ports.
All in all, Abit’s I-N73HD isn’t a bad choice for the basis of an HTPC, when you consider the feature set and the price tag.
Contact: 01438 228 888