Asus N4L-VM DH Core Duo Motherboard
The appeal of the Asus N4L-VM DH motherboard will differ greatly depending on which market perspective you're looking at the board from. If you're looking at the platform as a high-end gamer or workstation user, we would recommend that there are better options for you at this time, in comparison to this Asus motherboard. However, for those looking for an ultra-low noise, ultra-low power system configuration, which can still perform on par with hotter, noisier dual-core desktops, the N4L-VM DH fits nicely.
The perfect place for this motherboard will be in a Home Theater PC configuration. The Core Duo can finally keep up with other dual-core processors in terms of video playback and encoding, and the chip simply sips power rather than gulping it. Combined with the 7.1 Dolby Digital audio abilities of the N4L-VM DH, instant power on/off, Gigabit LAN, eSATA, and micro-ATX board layout, this board is a perfect match for a modern HTPC configuration. The only downside, we wish the motherboard supported DVI video output, as this is a much higher quality and flexible format for HTPC users. However, one can simply throw in a cheap PCI Express graphics card if DVI is really needed, not to mention, that option would definitely upgrade your gaming performance as well.
We're still skeptical of Intel's ViiV Media Center PC scheme, as the guidelines are simply too loose to be taken seriously by most. With thousands of potential configurations, it's likely that we'll see many "partial" ViiV compliant components hitting the market. We certainly have to give Intel credit for trying to standardize the components for a media center system, although we cannot see ViiV taking off in its current form at this time. With that said though, we certainly wouldn't shy away from purchasing ViiV certified components, as it may give some that little extra bit of mental security knowing that the component will work well in a HTPC environment. However, we wouldn't go out of our way to purchase all ViiV compliant components, as there are simply too many good options out there to pass up, that don't have the ViiV logo stuck on them.
All in all, we're pleased with this little Asus motherboard. It's surprisingly in-expensive in a land of pricey Core Duo platforms, and its performance is quite good. Power consumption levels are amazingly low, and the bundled cooler is very quiet (with Q-Fan enabled, that is). We wish it was a bit more friendly towards overclocking, but this is only a minor nuisance. As a whole, Asus has created a terrific Home Theater PC platform within their new N4L-VM DH motherboard.