Micro-ATX motherboards are definitely the best choice for HTPC owners. Their dimensions enable them to be placed in the smallest of chassis, so as not to take too much space in your living room. Of course, chassis such as HAF XB imply that you’ll be using top-notch hardware for your HTPC, but just how many users are willing to dish out a large sum of money for an HTPC? Only those with specific needs, we reckon, and this isn’t such a large target market. In any case, many will try to cram as many things as possible into a very restricted space, with the desire to get a fully functional multimedia machine. The obvious choice for this sort of undertaking is an APU.
The combination of a good CPU and brilliant integrated GPUs make it possible to enjoy any type of content. Luckily, you don’t need a large ATX motherboard to base an APU system on, as it’ll fit pretty much anywhere with its fairly low TDP, which is one of the main advantages of the technology as a whole. The recently presented Gigabyte GA-F2A75M-HD2 motherboard is an excellent example thereof, one that doesn’t have an exhaustive list of extra features, but contains all the essentials. You won’t need too many features on an HTPC anyway, right? The latter made this motherboard an ideal choice not for standard, but for HTPC devices.
Most of the motherboard is taken up by the surface required to house an FM2 socket, which says enough about the amount of available room. Next to it are two DIMM slots for memory modules, with official support for models up to 1866 MHz. Owing to the low memory prices these days, we suggest a 2 x 4 GB kit with a minimum speed of 1600 MHz to make the best out of the integrated GPU. As for expansion slots, you’ll have one PCI and two PCI-E (one x16 and one x1) slots at disposal, which should be enough for, say, a soundcard and a wireless adapter, while the PCI-E x16 is unlikely to see much use, except if your desire is to play games on the TV as well, in which case you’ll be able to make use of AMD’s Dual Graphics technology. Under the A75 chip, there’s a small and simple aluminium profile, but we haven’t noticed any heat-ups despite its seemingly lacklustre appearance. As far as outputs go, this motherboard definitely justifies its HD2 suffix.
Firstly, you have three types of video output at disposal, two of which are digital, which is fantastic with the motherboard’s price and size in mind. The standard D-Sub was to be expected, but the DVI and HDMI 4.1 will be the ones to provide quality connection with an HDTV, with the latter being the ideal solution due to its capability to transfer sound as well as picture. Unfortunately, only four USB ports are present on the motherboard itself, but it’s clear that compromises had to be made somewhere. Two of these belong to the latest 3.0 generation, while the other two are standard USB 2.0 ones. Realtek’s audio codec is perfectly able to reproduce 7.1 sound, but it’s limited to a total of three 3.5 mm connectors, with the expected lack of an optical output. Therefore, if you really go for an eight-channel sound with this motherboard without the use of HDMI, you’ll have to resort to front outputs as well as back ones, if they’re available. That said, the process seems rather impractical and we doubt that many will be eager to try this out. An interesting and most laudable feature of GA-F2A75M-HD2 is that all four SATA connectors belong to the latest SATA 6 Gbps standard. This makes the motherboard a very good investment for prolonged use in the future, making it possible to always get the very best out of your storage hardware.
|Memory||2 x DIMM DDR3 1066-1866 MHz|
|MultiGPU support||DualGraphics, CrossFireX|
|Slots||1 x PCIe 2.0 x16, 1 x PCIe 2.0 x1, 1 x PCI|
|SATA/ATA||4 x SATA 6Gbps|
|Audio||Realtek ALC887 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC (7.1 only with front panel)|
|Network||1 x Realtek GBit LAN|
|Internal interfaces||1x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, 2 x Fan, 1x serial port, 1x 24pin power, 1x 8pin ATX 12V, Audio (Front panel)|
|Back panel||Combined PS/2, 2x USB 2.0, 2 x USB 3.0, DVI, HDMI, D-Sub, LAN, 3x 3,5mm audio|
We’ve tried out this motherboard with AMD’s A10-5700 APU and the two have proven to be a perfect match. The simple power unit is sufficiently strong for any APU, and the fact that it can’t handle overclocking shouldn’t be of concern to anyone, since one shouldn’t expect this from a micro-ATX motherboard anyway. The UEFI BIOS is intuitive, although we’re still bothered by the pronounced lag in its interface, but we believe that Gigabyte will rectify this with a future BIOS update. All in all, this is a fully functional product that we believe will entirely satisfy its target group of users. The fact that it allows full liberty in the choice of APU and can be easily expanded through additional slots is enough to warrant our warm recommendation.