It is always important to have in mind the audience a given product is targeted to. ECS AMD690GM-M2 and AMD 690G are clearly targeted to digital home PCs, where gaming isn’t the most important factor. For this PC class, video quality, connectivity options and size are more relevant.
This motherboard has on its side the support for two video monitors, which is great. On motherboards with on-board video based on other chipsets you need to buy an add-on video card if you’d like to have more than one video display.
Compared to other AMD 690G-based motherboards its main advantage is its full support to 7.1 analog speakers, providing six independent audio jacks on its rear panel. Some motherboards around (like ASUS M2A-VM) have only three jacks, making it impossible for you to hook up a 7.1 analog speaker system and also killing your mic in and line in inputs when using a 5.1 analog system.
Another strong side of this motherboard is its 3D performance – compared to other motherboards with on-board video, of course. AMD 690G is clearly optimized to DirectX 9.0 (Shader 2.0) and this motherboard achieved a performance far higher than motherboards based on Radeon X1100, on GeForce 6100 and on GeForce 7025 on our DirectX 9 simulations. Of course don’t expect much from on-board video: even the “worst” video card available on the market is far faster than AMD 690G.
This motherboard has some flaws, though. The main flaw is the presence of only two memory sockets. So if you want to upgrade your memory in the future you need to remove your old modules and install new ones, not allowing you to keep your old memories.
Secondly, the audio input quality isn’t good enough for today’s standards. This board provides only 85 dB signal-to-noise ratio on its audio input and you need at least 95 dB there. For this reason, avoid this motherboard if you want to build a system to capture and edit analog audio (e.g., converting VHS tapes, cassette tapes, LPs, etc to digital format).
In third place, this motherboard does not have on-board SPDIF connectors and even though the board provides a header for SPDIF, it doesn’t come with an SPDIF bracket, making it hard for users willing to connect their PCs to their home theater receivers. It should either have SPDIF connectors soldered on the motherboard or come with this bracket.
In fourth place, this motherboard provides a S-Video output, however you will need a bracket that does not come with the board to use it.
And finally this motherboard does not have FireWire ports, a feature present on several other AMD 690G-based products.
The good news is that this motherboard will perform almost like a high-end motherboard if you disable its on-board video and install a “real” video card on it, making a good product for users thinking of installing an add-on video card later. Since this motherboard has two video outputs, you can even let its on-board video enabled in order to connect your PC to four independent displays, two connected on the motherboard and two on the add-on video card.
If the flaws listed above aren’t a problem for you, this motherboard is surely a good option if you are looking for a socket AM2 motherboard with on-board video.