AMD/ATI really did release a cracking chipset in their 690G, and now it's turn for the major AIB's to stamp their mark on the Intel version. Based around the ATI Radeon Express 1250 Graphics chipset and with a whole host of features like onboard HDMI and VGA, integrated HDCP audio/video and a whole host of others it looks like it's never been a better time to plug a Core2Duo into your media rack.
Based on the ever-present "Fatal1ty" branding (Jonathan "Fatal1ty" Wendell - one of the worlds top gamers), the board is clad in the usual red abit Fatal1ty regalia. Read on to find out how it fares in the OC3D labs.
abit have gone with a rather toned down package to that which they normally produce. Clothed in a rather nice subtle grey scratched metal effect, for me this would definitely stand out on the shelves.
Opening up the box let's you know that care has been taken to present the product in the very best manner possible. The motherboard is mounted at the top of the box with a clear plastic cover to show it off. I don't know how much use this is but it is a nice touch.
The package that abit have included in with the F-190HD is protected by a rather smart box that took me a minute or so to figure out how to open (old age ey?!). abit have certainly packaged up the whole lot with no chance of damage in transit unless it gets run over by a lorry.
The package with the motherboard is again pretty impressive for a cheap board like this. With the following included:
* Flat IDE Cable * Flat Floppy Cable * 4 x SATA Cables * HDMI to DVI Cable * Backplate IO panel * Letter from Jonathan "Fatal1ty" Wendell * Manual * Quick-install guide * Driver CD
Specifications (taken from abit website)
# CPU Supports Intel® Core™2 Duo, Core™2 Quad, Core™2 Extreme, Pentium® D & Pentium®4 Processors with 1066/800MHz FSB # PWM Designation provides high quality and efficient power # Chipset ATI Radeon™ Xpress 1250 # Memory 4 X 240-pin DIMM sockets support max. memory capacity 16GB # Supports Dual channel DDR2 800/667/533 Un-buffered Non-ECC memory # LAN Gigabit Ethernet controller supports 10/100/1000Mbit LAN connections # Audio 7.1 CH HD Audio CODEC # Supports Auto Jack Sensing and optical S/PDIF Out # Expansion Slots 1 x PCI-E X16, 2 x PCI-E X1, 1 x PCI # Internal I/O 1 x Floppy Port supports up to 2.88 MB # 1 x ATA 133/100/66/33 IDE connector # 4 x SATA 3Gb/s connector # 3 x USB header (supports 6 additional ports) # 1 x FP-Audio # Back Panel I/O 1 x HDMI™ connector # 1 x PS/2 Keyboard, 1 x PS/2 Mouse # 1 x S/P DIF Out # 7.1 CH Audio connector (Front, Line-in, MIC-in, Center/Subwoofer, Surround, Rear Surround) # 4 x USB 2.0, 1 x RJ-45 LAN connector # Serial ATA 4 x SATA 3Gb/s with SATA RAID 0/1/0+1 # RoHS 100% lead-free process and RoHS compliant # Accessories Driver CD x1 # English Manual x1, Jumper Setting Label x 1 # IDE cable x1, FDD cable x1, SATA cable x4 # I/O bracket x1, HDMI to DVI Connector x1 # Form Factor mATX form factor 244 x 244mm # PCB Color: Red # abit Engineered 100% Japanese Capacitors # Low ESR, high ripple, conductive polymer aluminum solid state capacitors in all high frequency areas # Silent Cooling
All looking great for abit so far.
abit Fatal1ty F-I90HD Motherboard Page: 2 abit Fatal1ty F-I90HD - close up
Lets start off by taking a look at the boards layout overall.
The board is very small when you are used to dealing with full size ATX boards, but everything is there that you need, all packed in neatly. As you can see there's only one PCI-e x16 slot and one PCI slot but the motherboard makes up for this with a couple of PCI-e x1 slots. Looking at the layout in general there's nothing that immediately strikes as being very bad layout wise.
Perhaps one of the SATA ports will be blocked off if you include a large GPU, although that defeats the object of the board in my opinion.
The NorthBridge sink looks quite large, so we will have to see how obstructive it is when fitting the cooler.
abit have chosen to go with mixed solid state and normal capacitors on the board. This isn't too much of a surprise as the board is not a top-end overclockers board. Having said that the caps are still high-quality Japanese capacitors, so you are not losing out much.
Surprisingly enough for such a small board there's quite a gap between the CPU area and the memory slots. That makes it ideal to fit a fairly big cooler on the board with the potential for passive cooling - excellent if this is going under your TV as an HTPC. Also notice the main ATX power plug right on the edge of the board, good work.
The caps and power phases seem quite close to the socket, but after installing a rather large cooler it seems that abit have put half-height caps which don't interfere with installation at all. This is a very good use of space . As said before the only concern with really big coolers is that the NorthBridge looks a little close to the socket.
Here we can see the two PCI-e x1 slots along with the full x16 slot and the PCI slot too. It's all squeezed on pretty well for such a small board and with more and more PCI-e x1 cards coming out there's lots of potential for expandibility. Also in the shot is the FDD connector along with the HD Audio chip. The audio is HDMI/HDCP compatible and hard-wired into the board so no DRM worries here at all.
Quite a clean and tidy area with the IDE connector sideways mounted as is the fashion now. The SATA area is slightly close to the PCI-e x16 slots as has been said but this shouldn't be too much of an issue. abit have included a nice easy CMOS reset jumper that is longer to allow you to reach it easier - a nice touch.
Notice that the ATX 12v1 power connector is a 4 prong connector rather than 8. This is good news for those of us with a slightly older PSU. You can see 5 of the 6 power phases on the board which should help keeping a steady flow of voltage to all the important components.
Finally the HDMI connector sitting at the back of the motherboard. This will be good news indeed for those wanting their digital TV hooked up and running.
IO options aren't too shabby for such a small well-priced board.
* PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports * SP-Dif Optical Connector * 5.1 analogue sound outputs * 4 x USB 2.0 Ports * Single Gigabit LAN * VGA out * HDMI out
That's a pretty excellent lineup of connectivity - everything is catered for as far as what you would need on an HTPC system, very good work by abit again.
The BIOS on the F-I90HD is a pretty basic affair. Based on the Phoenix AwardBIOS, it is a stripped down version of many abit BIOS we have seen before, with a few additions for the onboard GPU.
I really like the Phoenix AwardBIOS and find it easy to get around in general, so top marks for this to abit.
The overclocking options are put in the "Softmenu" in the BIOS, rather than abit's usual excellent µGuru menu. It is much stripped down, but there is still a small amount there for an avid overclocker to work on.
CPU voltage goes up to 1.650v which is a good range. DDR2 doesn't get quite as much adjustment range with only 2.5v being the highest. Still this should mean that even the highest performance RAM should run fine at stock. NorthBridge voltage adjustments only go to 2.088v so there's not a whole lot for the hardcore clocker.
The basic memory timings are catered for in the BIOS with full adjustment. Some graphics adjustment is also there for you to play with.
The IO spec on the board is pretty awesome and the BIOS isn't as bad as one would have thought for a cheap board. Overall pretty nice work by abit.
Installation was another surprising thing on the board. with the small size and compact nature I was expecting a bit of a hassle. I did find the cooler to be a bit of a squeeze but after turning it sideways my Scythe Infinity fitted onto the board fine. As stated previously this may be a bit of a hassle for those wanting to put a huge cooler on so I'd suggest a smaller cooler.
Let's see what everything looks like installed:
As you can see the board is pretty compact, but is very easy to install, especially in a bigger ATX tower like my TJ09.
The board booted fine first time and in fact went straight into WindowsXP setup no problems first time. However the reason it went into XP setup was that it just wouldn't recognise my USB keyboard so I couldn't get into the BIOS. Subsequent experimentation with another keyboard proved the same thing. Out came my trusty PS/2 keyboard and it went into the BIOS first time. Enabling USB keyboard and mouse as "BIOS" and not "OS" fixed the problem right away but this was certainly an annoyance and something abit should look at - almost every new keyboard now seems to be a USB unit.
I now find that even after a CMOS reset I don't have this problem, so a pretty strange issue.
Testing Setup and Notes
The following test setup was as following:
Core2Duo E6700 ES abit Fatal1ty F-I90HD motherboard 1gb Mushkin HP2 6400 (4-4-4-10) Hitachia Deskstar 7K160 SATA HDD Sony DVD-Rom/CD-RW Silverstone 560w ZEUS PSU Silverstone TJ09 case
To test the motherboard I first ran it at stock using as stress test comprising of Orthos (dual Prime95), Folding @ Home running on both cores (set to idle priority) and RTHDRIBL running 1/2 screen. I let this run for 12hours to see how the board would fare.
The benches and tests used on the motherboard were:
All tests are run three times for consistency and the averages given.
Note also that all of our motherboard tests also mean the we "live" with the motherboard for a two week period to make sure any issues are found.
As the board has an onboard GPU I am doing the Graphical tests a little differently and will not be comparing the figures with previous boards. I will, however be giving game test and benchmark results and also giving you an idea of what games are playable using the onboard GFX.
For the Stability test I ran Orthos which is a dual Prime95 stress test, alongside dual Folding @ Home instances of the console client. To spice this up and really test the board I ran RTHDRIBL alongside this. This is a real test of the boards stability at stock and will show just how well my smooth installation really went. I also added an extra test to this board as it was rock solid: I added FRAPS writing FPS every second to file.
The board failed the stability testing after 7.5 hours. This is no great failure and 7 hours with this level of stress testing is still pretty decent. Running folding @ home was 100% stable over a week period and everything else ran fine at stock.
Super PI 1 million and 32 million
Super PI is 100% the only choice for a quick bench of your top-end rig. It gives a quick and easy estimate of the relative speed of your CPU. The C2D's are now infamous for the their very fast PI times. Will the abit compete with the top-end boards here?
The Super PI times show that the F-I90HD is quite significantly slower than the full sized ATX boards in the run to 1 million PI.
Super PI 32million
A longer run of the Super PI benchmark shows stability and speed in a quick convenient test.
Once again the F-I90HD shows that it's significantly slower than the full size boards we've tested prior.
Processor Multimedia & Arithmetic
Processor Arithmetic tests the raw power of the CPU and the processor Multimedia tests the CPU in general multimedia tasks. There can be a slight difference shown between boards speed-wise.
The results are a little lower here, but not by a significant margin.
The SiSoft processor multimedia tests again do not show much of a difference and only a very slight drop on the IN9 32x Max.
Memory Bandwidth and Latency
Core architecture has made the Intel platform perform much better than previous generations. SiSoft was always a benchmark that AMD dominated until Core came out.
The F-I90HD shows a drop in the memory bandwidth although only about the same as the Asus P5B-E plus.
The memory latency is quite a lot higher on the F-I90HD board. It seems the memory subsystem is not the boards strong point.
abit Fatal1ty F-I90HD Motherboard Page: 6 3DMark05 and 3DMark06
3Dmark05 and 06 are good performance indicators for general gaming performance. 3Dmark05 is a very good test of DX9 and 3DMark06 tests even further with advanced DirectX 9.0c techniques. The Radeon 1250 onboard GPU is going to be stressed to breaking with these tests.
I am comparing performance simply with one other motherboard running an X1600Pro card for reference only.
With a reasonable performance in 3DMark05 the Radeon X1250 does pretty well.
The X1250 suffers in the more stressful 3DMark06 test. This doesn't bode too well for more recent games.
Changing the normal motherboard testing for gaming I have decided to give you an idea of what gaming is like on the F-I90HD with a "best playable" settings list and some minimum, maximum and average FPS readings. This makes more sense as most people would be buying this as an "all in one" board for all their PC HTPC needs.
Based on the excellent Source engine by Valve, Counter Strike is the worlds most popular online shooter. This makes it deal for a game to test out the onboard GPU on the F-I90HD. I tested using several 3 minute FRAPS benchmarks whilst playing in a DeathMatch on our own servers.
Managing 1024 x 768 with 2 x AA and 2 x AF the X1250 on the board did very well in my opinion. Gaming wasn't too bad although it could get very slightly laggy at times.
F.E.A.R. is an intense graphical thriller first person shooter. Using lots of DirectX 9.0c features and effects the game is very intense on the GPU and was a killer when it first came out. Once again the tests were a 3 minute manual run-through of an intense part of the game using the awesome slow-motion effects as well as explosions.
Once again a resolution of 1024 x 768 was achieved but note that every settings had to be put down onto Low and no AA could be used at all on the scene. Not too bad, but not very pleasant to play it has to be said.
Call of Duty 2
Call of Duty 2 is a fairly recent game that uses a lot of DirectX 9.0c features, including real time shadows, amazing smoke effects and some nice looking HDR effects. This makes the game very taxing. I played a fully patched up version of the game. Once again I played through the game with a three minute gaming session including explosions, smoke and also lots of snow. Let's see how the abit F-I90HD got on here:
Playing at 800 x 600 with no AA and almost every setting on Low is pretty bad on Call of Duty 2 as the graphics are part of what makes the gameplay so good. Still at least you can play at this level I suppose.
Command & Conquer 3
C&C3 is the much awaited RTS from EA. Hugely popular and with some pretty nice visuals almost every modern PC should be able to play it. I tested a skirmish right at the end when I had a screen full of mechs to defeat the enemy. Let's see how the abit does here.
The image quality at 800 x 600 isn't great but the game was highly playable. Here are the settings used just for information:
Some settings put down to minimum, but some maintained at medium which is good.
HD Playback - Windows Media and Quicktime
For the High Definition playback part of the tests I used Windows Media Player 11 and Quicktime 7. I did a quick run-through of a couple of WMHD trailers (freely available on Microsoft's website) and the excellent short animation movie Elephants dream.
Playback was smooth with no glitches apart from when switching from windowed to full screen when there was a slight delay. The board dealt admirably with the high-definition playback and using ATI's excellent AVIVO features on the film and trailers made them look polished and very smooth.
Note that to really test the HTPC capabilities of the board I hooked it up to a Sony Bravia 720p HDTV via HDMI. here the board shone through and did what it is good at. I installed Vista Home Premium on the PC and played a bit of media through the hookup. After initial trouble with the drivers I downloaded new ones and the experience was slick and easy.
Top marks here.
Gaming and Media - Sum up
Gaming on the abit Fatal1ty F-I90HD is stretching it a little in my opinion. Whilst the durable and versatile Source Engine rune pretty smoothly on the onboard X1250, most other modern games struggle and you have to drop down to 800 x 600 to get any sort of smooth gaming experience. Having said that this is still industry-leading at this time so AMD/ATI have to be praised for that.
High-definition viewing is a smooth and pleasant experience on the board and I would fully recommend this experience to anyone looking for an HTPC.
CineBench is a benchmarking tool based on the powerful 3D software Cinema 4D. Consequently, the results of tests conducted using CineBench carry significant weight when analysing a computer’s performance in everyday use. Remember in the GPU-based benchmarks that the abit F-I90HD is using the onboard X1250 and so is at a disadvantage.
The abit Fatal1ty F-I90HD keeps pace with the other motherboards in the CPU testing, dropping only a few CB-CPU's.
Lagging behind due to it's GPU, the abit board still gives a half decent account of itself and shows that you can also have a very budget rendering motherboard here.
HDTach is a free hard disk benchmarking program from SimpliSoftware. This benchmark is not only capable of producing results on hard disk access times but also CPU usage required during disk access. It simply tests the hard drives in a nice quick and easy test. Let's see how the abit F-I90HD fares here.
Keeping up with the other boards with a respectable 207Mbps the F-I90HD shows it doesn't lose out on disc access speed. With only 1% more CPU utilisation you shouldn't have too much bother with all your CPU power being taken up when accessing the hard discs either.
Overclocking was performed through the BIOS, as all good 24/7 overclocking should be done. With a very limited set of overclocking features as seen below, I wonder how I will get on.
Here's what I could change as regards overclocking (see also page 3):
Not a huge amount in all honesty. I found overclocking to be quite a task on the board and also found that the NorthBridge gets extremely hot, even with an Ultra-High CFM fan pointed right at it.
Low Voltage Overclocking
I set an upper limit of 1.325v for the CPU and clocked the CPU as high as I could whilst maintaining a 3 hour Orthos (dual prime95) stable overclock. I was actually pleasently surprised at the F-I90HD in this test. A nice stable and solid overclock was gained at 3300MHz.
Not a bad result here.
Overclocking - Highest Possible Stable on Air
Normally for this test I stop when I got concerned that the temperature rose too high. This overclock is performed on air using a Scythe Infinity. However this time I have to admit to being baffled and slightly embarrassed at the Max Overclock I could achieve on this board. I only managed 3400MHz Dual prime stable at 1.4v. The board refused to go any higher than that at all.
Other reports on the web with 690G chipsets confirm that it does not overclock well, but I am a little disappointed that the board didn't go above this.
I will contact abit and see what they have to say, but remember that the board is aimed at the digital home and not the overclocker so an overclock of 740Mhz is pretty respectable.
AMD/ATI needed to get a set of boards out there to rival Intel's "G" series integrated graphics chipsets and nVidia's 61XX series of integrated graphics. The Intel version of the 690G chipset, the Radeon X1250 is looking pretty good.
As we have seen the board performs admirably against some of it's larger and far more expensive competition. As a motherboard alone the abit fatal1ty F-I90HD stands up to the leaders of the pack well, let alone the extras that make the board somewhat of a Gem.
So the board does well in normal motherboard tests, lagging only slightly behind. Now what the abit F-I90HD is really about is getting your high-def onto your TV well. After testing the board at what it is supposed to be doing you have to admire the thinking behind a board like this.
Gaming is another fairly strong point of the abit F-I90HD. I was actually pretty impressed with what I played on the board and the fact I could play any modern games at all on it. Integrated graphics have a very bad reputation and this is certainly a step in the right direction.
At £70.11 the abit fatal1ty F-I90HD is looking pretty damn nice for the money. With a decent onboard GPU, HDCP HDMI (audio-visual) and VGA out, decent speed and some headroom for overclocking the board is a great buy for those wanting something to stick in a slick media centre.
After living with the board for a couple of weeks I can safely give the abit Fatal1ty F-I90HD an "Editors Choice" Award and "Value For Money" Award from OC3D, highly recommended.
+ Keeps up with the best + Great looking board + Packed with features + Great small form factor + Decent gaming + Awesome for an HTPC
- Could overclock more - Not for a hardcore gamer - Not 12 hours stress test stable