Overall, the Mini-ITX platform built on AMD components made a great impression. As our tests showed, it has every right to live a long a happy life. And although over a period of time we have been saying that Athlon and Phenom are synonyms to high power consumption, in reality it is not always like that. As we have just seen, you can build a very economical system with energy-efficient CPU modifications, and its total power consumption won’t exceed 100 W. And this system will demonstrate pretty competitive performance, especially when it comes to 3D games. In other words, AMD managed to achieve acceptable performance-to-power consumption ratio by downclocking their processors. That is why when you see new Mini-ITX mainboards for Socket Am3 platform, it is not a favor to the dedicated AMD fans, but a reality of the today’s market.
Moreover, do not forget that LGA1156 platform that is currently very popular among high-performance but at the same time compact solutions, is far not the most universal product. The thing is that only dual-core Core i3 and Core i5 processors have an integrated graphics core. And it means that an Intel Mini-ITX system with a quad- or six-core processor inside can only be built using an external graphics accelerator. And the latter will not only contribute to the system power consumption and heat dissipation, but will also need more free space inside the system case. Socket AM3 systems with integrated graphics are free from this conflict: their graphics core is inside the chipset so it can be used with multi-core CPUs. So, I am sure that some of the owners of miniature Socket AM3 mainboards will want to build a system with regular (not energy-efficient) 95 W Phenom II X4 or Phenom II X6 processors. And this choice is also absolutely justified.
As a result, the ASUS M4A88T-I Deluxe Mini-ITX mainboard we have just reviewed is not only an extremely interesting, but also a highly demanded solution. First, it is a unique product, because none of other mainboard makers offer miniature mainboards based on the current AMD chipsets from the 8th series. Second, this mainboard has extensive functionality, it supports external graphics accelerators, most contemporary interfaces and is even equipped with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth controllers. Third, this is a Deluxe series product, which means that it has everything necessary for overclocking processors and unlocking disabled CPU cores.
Of course, this mainboard does have certain drawbacks, the most frustrating one being the 95 W limitation set for the processor voltage regulator circuitry. However, even that won’t diminish the great job Asus engineers have done to present the users with a contemporary super-functional Socket AM3 platform in Mini-ITX form-factor.