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AOpen i855GMEm-LFS desktop Pentium M mobo
Perfect for DIY living room PCs?
As the i855GME chipset doesn't support Serial ATA natively, AOpen has fitted a Promise RAID controller, so you could have a RAID 0 or 1 configuration as long as you're willing to have two hard drives in your PC. On top of this there is an Agere FireWire controller that adds two FireWire ports, but there is no bracket with any connectors, so unless your case has a front mounted FireWire connector, you won't really get much use from this, unless you can lay your hands on a suitable bracket.
Amazingly, you also get two Marvell Gigabit Ethernet controllers on board, although I'm not quite sure why AOpen decided to fit dual Gigabit Ethernet on an µATX board, but I guess if you really need a small and quiet server, with lightning fast networking, this feature would come in handy.
You also get on-board Realtek 5.1-channel AC97 audio, which does the job, but there's no comparison to the latest HD audio solutions on the current crop of desktop boards. The remaining connectors on the I/O panel consist of two PS/2 ports, a serial and a parallel port, a D-SUB connector for the onboard graphics and four USB 2.0 ports.
General board layout is good, although the front audio connectors are at the rear of the board which means that you need to get a very long cable if your case has ports at the front. The same applies for the FireWire ports only in opposite - the headers are at the very front of the motherboard, so even if you find a rear bracket, you'll have the cable draped across the board. The only other minor issue is that the memory slots are very close to the AGP slot, which means that you might have to remove your graphics card if you want to add more memory at a later stage - an annoyance, but not a major problem.
We don't have any sound measurement equipment in the labs, but subjectively, it's safe to say that this board is very quiet. The supplied CPU cooler is a low profile unit and it doesn't even have a copper insert which is common place on pretty much all CPU coolers these days. The fan operates at a very low speed and you can control this further in the BIOS - AOpen's SilentTek options give you far more advanced controls over the fan speeds than you would find on most other motherboards.