Mirage 2 Graphics & Conclusions
Mirage 2 Integrated Graphics
A big feature of these SiS760GX motherboards is the integrated Mirage 2 graphics. Having used the Intel Media Accelerator 9000, I can say that the Mirage 2 is far superior in visual quality. The biggest improvement over Intel’s graphics is the text quality – on the Mirage 2, text is sharp and clear as you’d expect, not grey and fuzzy like on Intel.
As good as this sounds, the Mirage 2 graphics on the ECS, Foxconn, and AOpen boards is only good for 2D applications. Mirage 2 is only DirectX 8.1 compliant so it won’t be playing any of the latest DiectX 9 games.
You can adjust the amount of system RAM reserved for the onboard video using the motherboard’s BIOS. However, unlike Intel’s solution, you can’t use both the onboard video concurrently with an AGP card. No dual monitors for you!
Thoughts and Conclusion
After evaluating the ECS 760GX-M, the Foxconn 760GXK8MB-ERS, and the AOpen s760GXm-S, I can’t help but feel impressed. It is true that none of these boards offer any real enthusiast support, but that is not their purpose. The purpose of these boards is to offer great functionality in a small package at an affordable price.
By supporting older technology (parallel ATA, AGP, and DDR) all of the SiS760 boards we looked at today leverage the cheaper price of older parts while giving some real competitive performance to even the more expensive Intel 915P chipset using an Intel 3.6GHz 560E CPU.
Combine the performance and price with the fact the motherboards are micro ATX and offer integrated video as feature, you have yourself a great candidate for a cheap PC solution.
Imagine taking one of these SiS760GX micro ATX boards and building a budget workstation PC using nothing but a single stick of RAM, a harddisk, and a heatsink. For the modder, what about building a slim PC using a 1U cooler and using just the integrated video? What about a cheap gaming rig and use the money saved on a good video upgrade?
The obvious disadvantage of these SiS760GX boards is the fact there is no real new technology onboard (there is no PCI Express or DDR2), also their smaller size restricts upgradability (2 DIMMs for 2GB RAM maximum). Also by using a SiS chipset, you do get less aggressive BIOS support compared to that of NVIDIA or VIA. I had no issues with the BIOS compatibility in my testing, so I’m confident one of these boards will function well for you if you buy one.
If I had to single-out a board in this review as being a strong buy, it would be the Foxconn WinFast 760GXK8MB-ERS because of its Firewire support, SuperBoot feature, and a full accessory package. If you can’t find this model, the AOpen s760GXm-S is your next best bet. The AOpen has BIOS controlled fans as well as being the smallest board in this round-up. The ECS performed well, but really didn’t have any extra features to make it stand out.
You really can’t go wrong with one of these boards if you’re not looking for real high-end features like better audio and gigabit LAN, or worried about future technology like PCI-Express. The micro ATX form factor and the integrated Mirage 2 video makes it versatile for many different applications from business workstations to gaming at home.
Longevity of Socket 754
Some of you may have concerns about the longevity of Socket 754 – I don’t think you have anything to be worried about. The Socket 754 will likely become the budget AMD platform with current 754-pin Athlon 64 parts becoming the Sempron of the future (i.e. 64-bit Semprons). This migration has been done similarly in the past with the Sempron-Thoroughbred Socket A transition, and I believe we’ll see the same thing on Socket 754 as AMD pushes higher-end processors onto Socket 939.
Thanks to ECS, Foxconn, and AOpen for sending up these great, flexible boards. Please feel free to use our PriceGrabber service to compare prices and find the best deals!