We tried to use our Phenom 9600 Black Edition CPU, but the board didn't like to boot with the 1.00 Beta BIOS. With the 1.11Beta BIOS we could boot but not set anything in the BIOS, because it would not boot again. So we stuck in an AMD X2 3800+ EE processor overclocked to 2.40GHz.
Due to the fact we have not that many Vista DVDs in the house, we decided to run quick tests with Windows XP SP2 and 3DMark2003, because 3DMark2006 will produce a slide show and its score is quite CPU dependent.
Our tests show the sideband memory does really help. The onboard solution could reach a HD3450 when overclocked to about 1GHz. We can only guess 128MB or even 256MB sideband will help much more.
Sadly, Hybrid Crossfire is not supported by Windows XP drivers. We hope AMD changes its mind and will enable it, because there are lot of peoples who don't want to upgrade to Vista.
AMD did a great job with this chipset. We imagine AMD could have done a down-clocked HD3650 and would have wiped the floor with any other Nvidia or Intel integrated chipset. Still, it's the fastest integrated solution for the time being. Cost is a big factor for the intended market-segment, so they decided to use only the low-end part.
With DVI, VGA and HDMI you get all the connectors you need and with UVD the best video acceleration for a decent HTPC machine. With an Athlon BE you can keep the power-consumption under 50W in idle and about 65W when working or playing videos. If you invest another €30,- you can buy an HD3450 card and make it Hybrid Crossfire under Vista or extend to four screens. This is, in fact, the cheapest four-display solution.
J&W did a good job with this board. The retail price will be about €69,- in Euroland; for U.S. it should be below US$85. We soon expect a production sample, which should run fine with a Phenom CPU. Testing with Vista will reveal how well Hybrid Crossfire really performs.