Closer Look: Gigabyte GA-AM1M-S2H Motherboard
To test the Kabini desktop platform, AMD sent us the Gigabyte GA-AM1M-S2H. In order to meet the design idea behind the Kabini desktop platform, motherboard manufacturers need to keep costs down. That means sticking with the stuff the APU provides and adding just the bare essentials. With that in mind, the Gigabyte GA-AM1M-S2H motherboard is pretty bare essentials. Gigabyte added an iTE Super I/O chip to the mix that adds PS/2, serial, and LPT ports. That’s right, the GA-AM1M-S2H has a parallel port header and two serial port headers. What are the chances that any of those will ever be used?
Gigabyte also needs to provide the GbE port and an Audio codec. For the GA-AM1M-S2H, Gigabyte uses the Realtek ALC887 Audio Codec and they also use Realtek for the GbE chip. The ALC887 Audio Codec wouldn’t be my typical entry-level choice, but it is a good one. The ALC887 offers up to 7.1 channel audio and it’s a Codec you’d be likely to find on much more higher-end motherboards.
The Gigabyte GA-AM1M-S2H rear I/O panel is pretty straightforward. There are PS/2 ports for a keyboard and mouse followed by VGA and HDMI video outputs. Next comes the two USB 3.0 ports supported by the Kabini platform. Two USB 2.0 ports, a GbE port, and three Audio ports finish things off. Since there are only three audio ports on the rear panel, you’ll have to use front panel HD Audio ports to get 7.1 channel sound. I, personally, would have liked to see only a single PS/2 port, or none at all, and a few more USB 2.0 ports. I think what we have seen here on the GA-AM1M-S2H is going to be pretty typical of what you’ll find on an AM1 motherboard.
While the Kabini APUs have a TDP of a mere 25W, you’ll still need to plug in a 4-Pin CPU power connector in addition to the 24-Pin ATX power connector on the Gigabyte GA-AM1M-S2H motherboard. The GA-AM1M-S2H comes with two DIMM slots, but since the Kabini platform only uses a single channel for RAM, a bigger DIMM may be a better option than a second DIMM. While the GA-AM1M-S2H probably won’t need much in the way of cooling, it does have a single 4-pin system fan header in addition to the CPU fan header. I would imagine that most systems built using the Kabini APUs will probably aim for silence and either have only a single system fan or none at all. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few passive-only CPU coolers available for the AM1 platform.
The GA-AM1M-S2H is technically a micro-ATX motherboard, but it really sits in-between the size of a mini-ITX motherboard and a micro-ATX motherboard. A mini-ITX motherboard measures 17cm X 17cm and a micro-ATX is typically 24cm X 24cm, although it can really measure anywhere between mini-ITX and ATX. The GA-AM1M-S2H motherboard measures 22.6cm X 17cm.
The GA-AM1M-S2H motherboard includes a single PCI-E x16 slot and two PCI-E x1 slots. The PCI-E x16 slot, based on the on-APU controller, will run only at the PCI-E 2.0 standard and will also run only at x4, since only 4 lanes are provided for PCI-E x16 devices. The Kabini APU provides 4 lanes for PCI-E x1 devices. One is used for the GbE and the GA-AM1M-S2H uses two more for the two PCI-E x1 slots. It looks like the last one is wasted.
Gigabyte provides a bit of forward-thinking with the addition of a Real-Time Clock on the GA-AM1M-S2H motherboard. Kabini APUs have the CMOS function fully-integrated, which is fine for an APU that is typically solder onto the board and non-upgradable. The socket AM1 APUs, though, are meant to be upgradable. Removing the APU, however, would cause the BIOS and Windows to lose track of the proper time/date. With the addition of the RTC IC, Gigabyte is making sure that doesn’t happen.