Today we are going to take a look at M61PME-S2P, a new motherboard from Gigabyte for socket AM2 and AM2+ processors from AMD, based on GeForce 6100 chipset with nForce 430 south bridge.
This motherboard has brought some surprises. First, the fact that the chipset used it is very old: we reviewed ECS C51G-M754, a socket 754 motherboard based on this chipset more than three years ago. And three years is a lifetime in computer hardware terms.
The next surprise was when we look at the board carefully: near the CPU socket we could see an "AM2+" marking. Even though AM2+ processors (and even AM3 under certain conditions) are compatible with AM2 motherboards, that does not mean that this board is really an AM2+ model. The chipset determines if the board is AM2 or AM2+ (or even AM3) and GeForce 6100 is an AM2 one. Thus, this writing seems to be misleading advertising, trying to make the consumer to believe that the product is something that it is really not.
The only explanation for a major manufacturer to launch a motherboard based on a near obsolete chipset is the buying a large quantity of these chips for a very low price. Of course, not all customers need the maximum performance. Sometimes a computer doesn’t require a lot of performance and the lowest cost of acquisition (picture a large store offering several in-store price consulting terminals for their customers, for example), and there is certainly a market for equipment that would be too basic for the domestic consumer. A pity this is not the case with M61PME-S2P, because many current motherboards (some of them offering a real socket AM2+) can be found in stores for similar ou even lower prices.
You can install a Sempron, an Athlon X2, a Phenom or even a Phenom II CPU on this motherboard, but in the case of AM2+ processors using HyperTransport 3.0 bus, they will work at a lower HT speed (4,000 MB/s transfer rate offered by HyperTransport 2.0), will not use DDPM technology and the memory controller will work at a lower clock rate (1.6 GHz). To learn more about these limitations, please read our HyperTransport Bus Used By AMD Processors and Inside AMD K10 architecture tutorials.
Another problem with GeForce 6100 chipset is that its on-board video is obsolete, with a DirectX 9.0 (Shader 2.0) graphics engine.
Let’s take a closer look at M61PME-S2P main features.
As we can see on Figure 2, M61PME-S2P has two PCI slots, one PCI Express x1 slot and one PCI Express x16 slot, which lets you install a "real" video card in order to run the latest games and also simulation programs that use the GPU for processing if you install a video card compatible with DirectX 10.
M61PME-S2P has only two memory sockets (like almost all value motherboards). As the memory controller is inside processor, the memory type you can install depends on the CPU. Socket AM2 processors accept up to DDR2-800 memory, while AM2+ processors support up to DDR2-1066 modules, in both cases supporting dual channel configuration. You can install up to 8 GB of memory, with two modules of 4 GB.
[nextpage title=”On-Board Peripherals”]
nForce 430 south bridge supports up to four SATA-300 ports and two ATA-133 ports (four devices), accepting RAID modes 0, 1, 0+1 and 5. However, Gigabyte implemented only two SATA ports and a single ATA port in M61PME-S2P. One detail that should be taken into consideration is that the position of SATA ports makes them difficult to be used if you install a long video card.
The audio section from this motherboard uses a Realtek ALC883 codec, with 10 channels (7.1+2), offering a signal/noise ratio of 95 dB for the analog outputs and 85 dB for the analog inputs, good numbers for a value motherboard, but in order to work professionally with analog audio capture (converting LPs and VHS tapes to digital format, for example) you will need a signal/noise ratio higher than this (at least 95 dB for the inputs). The rear audio connectors are shared, meaning that you cannot use all six channel outputs with the line in and microphone inputs at the same time. There is no SPDIF output.
The board offers eight USB 2.0 ports, four soldered on the rear panel and four available as internal headers. The network port is an on-board 10/100 Ethernet controlled by the south bridge, aided with Realtek RTL 8201CL transceiver. It is a shame that the manufacturer has saved on this chip, because the south bridge embbeded LAN controller is compatible with Gigabit Ethernet.
The rear panel is simple and traditional: Keyboard and mouse PS/2 connectors, one serial and one parallel port, on-board video output, four USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port and shared audio connectors.
[nextpage title=”Other Features”]
Fortunately Gigabyte does not "think cheap" on voltage regulator circuits. M61PME-S2P uses a four-phase design voltage regulator, using ferrite chokes and solid aluminum capacitors. For a better understanding of the importance of such design, read our Everything You Need to Know About the Motherboard Voltage Regulator Circuit tutorial.
The accessories set that comes with the board is the usual for low-cost motherboards: user manual, driver CD, case back plate, in addition to the floppy drive, ATA and SATA cables.
An amazing detail on M61PME-S2P motherboard is the presence of some overclocking options. For the average user, they are hidden and at first you may
think that there is no options for improving your system performance. However, by pressing Control and F1 keys while on the initial setup screen (as in most Gigabyte motherboards), the overclocking options appear. Sadly, the available options are not very complete. You can adjust the base clock at one megahertz steps, lock the PCI Express clock and adjust multipliers, but there is no voltage adjustments at all.
As you can see in Figure 9, memory timing options, however, are quite complete.
[nextpage title=”Main features”]
Gigabyte M61PME-S2P main features are:
- Socket: AM2.
- Chipset: NVIDIA GeForce 6100 northbridge and nForce 430 southbridge (integrated).
- Super I/O: ITE IT8718.
- Parallel IDE: One ATA-133 port (supporting two devices).
- Serial IDE: Two SATA-300 ports, controlled by the chipset.
- USB: 8 USB 2.0 ports (four soldered at back panel and for available as internal headers).
- FireWire (IEEE 1394a): No.
- On-board audio: Yes, produced by the chipset with the aid of a Realtek ALC883 codec (ten channels, 24-bit resolution, up to 192 kHz sampling rate for outputs and 96 kHz for inputs, 95 dB signal-to-noise ratio on analog outputs and 85 dB on inputs). No SPDIF outputs.
- Onboard video: Yes, produced by the GeForce 6100 chipset.
- On-board LAN: Yes, Fast Ethernet (100 Mbps) produced by the chipset with the aid of a Realtek RTL8201CL transceiver.
- Buzzer: No.
- Power Supply: ATX12V.
- Slots: One PCI Express 1.0 x16, one PCI Express x1 and two standard PCI slots.
- Memory: Two DDR2-DIMM sockets (up to 8 GB of DDR2-800 or DDR2-1066, depending on the CPU).
- Number of CDs/DVDs provided: one drivers/utilities CD.
- Extra features: Japanese aluminum solid capacitors, 4-phase voltage regulator circuit with ferrite chokes, dual BIOS.
- More information: https://www.gigabyte.com.tw
- Average price in the US*: USD 94.00
* Researched at newegg.com on the day we published this First Look article.
What to say about a "re-heated" motherboard, based on an obsolete chipset, launched on the market by a large manufacturer with a marking that suggests that is an up-to-date product? If you find this board costing far less than updated competitors it would be an interesting choice for those who don’t need an updated computer. But it costs the equivalent or more than many value motherboards, which are based on newer and less limited chipsets, like AMD 780 or GeForce 8200.
M61PME-S2P is not really a bad motherboard, it is compatible with newer AMD processors, has a good voltage regulator circuit, RAID support, and even with some interesting options for overclocking. But if you have the option to buy a newer motherboard paying the same price, why buying an outdated product?
Unfortunately, looks like the fate of these boards is to equip systems from large computer shops, where the user doesn’t have the knowledge to understand what he or she is buying.