The battle to deliver the ultimate HTPC platform is heating up and has largely been waged between AMD and Intel. In the past, home theater machines have struggled to overcome various issues such as poor integrated graphics performance, power consumption, thermals, noise and size. However, many of these issues were addressed in January 2010 when Intel unleashed a new processor range codenamed "Clarkdale."
Based on a 32nm process, they were the first modern CPUs to incorporate an on-die GPU, which was dubbed Intel Graphics Media Accelerator HD. Although Clarkdale chips solved many of the HTPC-specific problems faced by its predecessors, it still lacked proper support. Intel has since replaced Clarkdale with today's "Sandy Bridge" range, which boasts superior CPU and GPU performance with even less power consumption.
We recently reviewed a Mini-ITX Asrock motherboard designed to accommodate Intel's second-gen Core processors. The Z68M-ITX/HT impressed us as it was not only able to utilize the latest Intel processors but it also supported high-end PCI Express graphics cards. This made it an excellent entertainment solution as it was capable of replacing your Blu-ray player along with your gaming console.
Today's review item is a little different as we check out the Intel desktop board DH61AG, also known as "Apple Glen." Built around Intel's H61 chipset, which is designed to offer the most basic features to the Sandy Bridge platform, the DH61AG doesn't seem all that exciting on the surface. However, if you gaze a little deeper, you'll see this is no ordinary Mini-ITX motherboard. In fact, it's quite different than Asrock's HTPC offering.
Intel's DH61AG is based on the Thin Mini-ITX form factor, which was introduced on October 2010 and is targeted for smaller system form factors with a 0.78" (20mm) tall PCB/component design and a 1" (25mm) back panel I/O height. In other words, the DH61AG is designed to be fully compatible with low height components prevalent in the HTPC world, such as SO-DIMMs as well as full and half-length PCI Express mini-cards.
The board also utilizes Sandy Bridge's integrated graphics engine with support for HDMI and DVI-I which is complemented by flexible eDP or LVDS flat panel display support. The combination of low height components, premium features and an external power supply make the DH61AG the perfect solution for high performance AIO (all-in-one), Tiny FF (Form Factor) and home theater systems. Let's move in for a closer look