Abit – iL-90MV review

well-featured motherboard to build a home theatre PC around
Photo of Abit – iL-90MV
£79

Most motherboard manufacturers at one time or another have dipped their toes in the mobile CPU motherboard market, with varying degrees of success. Some give it up as a bad job while others doggedly keep going.

Abit’s current mobile motherboard is the iL-90MV which has a few things going for it, not least a reasonable price tag, onboard HDMI and a custom CPU cooler and fan which keep things very quiet, making it an ideal base for a HTPC (Home Theatre PC).

Built on an orange microATX PCB, the iL-90MV uses an Intel Socket 479 for mobile processors and supports Core 2 Duo, Core Duo and Core Solo CPUs with a 667 or 533MHz FSB speed. The chipset Abit has chosen to support the CPU is Intel’s 945GT Express / ICH7m-DH combination which, although a previous generation mainstream desktop chipset, is still very capable, as proved by a SYSmark score of 245 and overall PCMark05 score of 3,656.

There are two DIMM slots which can support up to a total of 2GB of 667/533 or 400MHz DDR2 dual channel memory; the chipset also provides support for the single ATA-133 port and just two SATA-150 ports.

The iL-90MV comes with an Abit-designed CPU heatsink and fan named ‘OTES Stream’, a compact cooler that’s held in place by four screws that screw into a base plate under the motherboard, all of which are supplied. In operation the fan is very quiet and, to add to the quietness of the board, both chipset bridges are passively cooled, as are the MOSFET transistors.

A well laid-out board, it has plenty of space around the major components and looking at the board it’s no surprise why – there’s no graphics slot. Instead you have to rely on Intel’s GMA950 integrated graphics solution, which, if you are building the iL-90MV in an HTPC, presents no real problems as the integrated solution is perfect for your needs.

Otherwise, don’t expect any great graphics performance from the iL-90MV. It will run Vista’s Aero interface and all your office apps but that’s about it. If you want more proof look no further than its 3DMark05 score of just 570.

The only expansion slots provided are two standard PCI and a single x1 PCI-E slot, but before you start moaning about the lack of possibilities, stand back and think about it. The slots you are given are just crying out to be filled with TV cards, especially the PCI-E slot; and yes, x1 PCI-E TV cards do exist. They may take some tracking down, but they are out there.

In any case, the lack of slots is more understandable when you realise what the iL-90MV has onboard… well, firstly there’s that HDMI out port; controlled by a SiliconImage Sil1390 chip, it supports up to 1080p and Abit even supplies an HDMI-to-DVI cable. Next up is integrated 7.1-channel audio (Realtek ALC882M) complete with in and out optical SPDIF ports on the rear I/O panel. And last but not least there is 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet.

One thing top look out for, though: there are no parallel or serial ports on this board but you do get four USB 2 ports on the rear panel (joined by a FireWire port) with headers on the motherboard supporting another four USB and a single FireWire port.

Company: Abit

Contact: 01438 228 888


Verdict
All in all Abit's iL-90MV is a perfect motherboard for building a Home Theatre PC around. It's very quiet and has many of the multimedia features you need built in, including HDMI. You may think it's a bit pricey, but in the world of mobile CPU-powered desktop motherboards, this one is a bit of a steal.