Showing Results: Most Recent
Pros: Small, automatic config in Win 7.
Cons: Can't think of anything.
Other Thoughts: My HTPC is complete. Bought a J1900 Celeron board with only 2 SATA ports. Really need 3, 1 for SATA DVD ROM, 1 for SSD boot, 1 for big HDD platter drive. I was expecting a slog to get this to work, but other reviewers said PnP in Win7. All the config happened in the background and Win7 immediately recognized my platter drive when I hooked everything up. This was total Cake! I even tried mixing around the drives a bit. Booted every time to Windows without issue (checked BIOS first...to make sure MBR was showing).READ FULL REVIEW
Pros: I really like the form factor; ITX fits a standard ATX/mATX pattern, and this board looks dinky in my giant full ATX Antec HTPC. 4 supported monitor connections - dSub, DVI, HDMI, DP. , 7.1 sound capable - I'm running 5.1. USB 3.0 and SATA 3 (6 mbps) are nice. UEFI BIOS, pretty, intuitive. There is an option to load the Ethernet driver from the BIOS and download all the drivers from asrock.com, never tried it, but for anyone without options, that looks like a good option.
Cons: The included CD cannot boot properly. Here is what I did to load drivers - I loaded Win7-64, loaded a wireless USB stick driver I had lying around, went to asrock.com, then to amd.com to get Catalyst. The asrock.com site has an all-in-1 driver suite that gets all the CPU level stuff loaded. Due to an issue - see below - I actually tried different driver install methods and found this to be best. The screw on the board that holds on the wireless antenna was loose and I had to take 2 pair of pliers to tighten it up, noticed other reviews said the same thing. The CPU fan after a couple of weeks is now noisy - more so than a standard AMD APU 80 mm fan would be. The manual is so-so. Board picture is small - yeah small board, but even smaller picture.
Yes - this is an inexpensive solution, but you can get better solutions for 20-25 more. Big and little things are just not as good as they could be, even considering price.
Am I happy with the solution - yes, just not happy with some of the initial quality shortcomings. The board works - everything works - it just took a while to get there. Long term I will be putting on a big passive cooler to eliminate the fan noise. Have a machine shop at work where I can get that made.
Update in 2016. This board had problems from the start. The A4-5000 is just not strong enough to run WMC without pauses and delays in pulling up channels. Crashes to Windows, blue screens. I bought another integrated solution and literally transferred everything over (mem, HDD, DVD ROM, PSU, etc.) and reinstalled Win 7, no similar problems. Even if the board was otherwise perfect, the CPU is inadequate for an enjoyable Media Center experience. For example, browsing TV listings, this CPU just kinda plunks them out, the other solution goes like a house on fire, noticeable difference. I don't really even want to try to RMA/replace the board, wouldn't use it anyhow, just too pokey. I don't even want to try to replace my FM1/A4-3400 with this, just giving up too much performance. And the fan noise from this board, it just cuts through everything, even my wife complained. Technically this board had lower power draw that the solution that replaced it, yet my new solution had a passive heat sink. Probably the least happy with this purchase of any IT item I've ever purchased,
Other Thoughts: I initially set up my HTPC with a 800 Gb WD green @ 5400 RPM that I had lying around. The combo of the CPU and the slow HDD really made the computer unpleasant to use. I purchased a 60Gb Mushkin SSD to pep up the system. This definitely makes the setup usable as a HTPC. The 800 Gb drive is now the recorded TV drive.
The intended purpose of this board is for HTPC to be a Tivo for digital cable using HDHomerun as a 3-tuner device across my LAN. Because M$ is so worried about Win10 right now, they had some major support gaps in changing guide providers in Windows Media Center. I tried valiantly to get the guide, which makes recording shows possibly in the first place, and tried re-installing Win 7 several times. Finally, time won out and the guide eventually downloaded properly. Look up Zap2It to Rovi transition - lots of unhappy WMC users out there.
Quad core anything running this slow is actually kind of silly. I wonder if this was cut back to a dual core if there would be any noticeable performance hit just using this as a WMC/HTPC box. The real strength of this system is good graphics system that pulls loads away from the x86/x64 cores.
This embedded solution is not recommended for anyone who wants to transition to a lower-power desktop solution. It is just not snappy enough for even the least serious user to notice pauses and delays.
Pros: Speedy (enough) CPU with passive heat sink. Intel HD graphics more than good enough to handle HD through a Silicon Dust Homerun TV tuner in Windows Media Center. 5.1 Sound, not just stereo. Regular DDR3 1.5V memory is on the approved list, not just 'L' variants. Awesome power draw according to specs. This board replaced a mini-ITX, and I am digging the 3 PCIe slots, need one for the SATA card to bump up number of SATA devices I can use. Also, got lots of USB 2.0 headers on board.
Cons: Two SATA2 ports, come on guys, just one more for SSD boot drive, platter drive for recorded TV, and a SATA DVD drive. I knew this going in, so I can't deduct an egg. Bought a PCIe/SATA card so I'll be able to run 4 SATA devices.
Older ports (SATA2, USB 2.0 headers, etc.) but I don't need the fastest for a HTPC, so again, not really a con.
Other Thoughts: For years, I've been looking for a replacement for a Core 2 Duo-based PCs that I used with analog TV tuners. I have an AMD Hudson/FM1/A4-3400. It's speedy enough, but pulls lots of Watts, makes the case toasty. And the integrated graphics are just not quite there for HDTV through my tuner setup, so it has an AMD HD4550 card. Next, I bought another integrated motherboard solution about 6 months ago. It has an A4-5000. The Celeron, when at peak, runs almost a GHz faster than the A4-5000. It really shows in all tasks, for example scrolling through Media Center shows has lots of pauses and delays. Celeron makes Media Center a pleasure to use. Oddly enough, both integrated solutions have the memory that I used on their approved memory lists.
So these are my requirements: Low power, integrated graphics powerful enough to run WMC, HD tuner content, enough connectivity, stable. This Biostar board is as close as I've found to being a great HTPC board, without dropping big bucks.
For kicks, I ran an nVidia GTX 550ti in the PCIe X16 (running X1 bandwith). I did a bench of Furmark running 720P. I compared FPS to an old Core 2 Quad with the same nVidia card in it. They were the same FPS. My bet is on mid-low gaming cards an X1 lane isn't really saturated. I could see using my HTPC for Steam game night running casual games with controllers, with the nVidia solution in.
I did some small simple tests, like opening and closing browsers, documents. This solution is good enough for everyday computing in my opinion. Never felt undue pauses and delays in general tasks.