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jmke 6th March 2009 15:29

AMD Maui: Ultimate HTPC Integration
AMD Live! is an initiative to promote PC software and hardware for better home entertainment. It is a concept that few hardware enthusiasts are familiar with. For many, their only knowledge of AMD Live! comes from the sticker spotted on the occasional brand name AMD-powered computer at a big box store. So what does it take to be AMD Live! certified? Basically a dual core processor
, Vista Aero-capable graphics, and digital video and audio outputs not exactly tough requirements.

Maui, on the other hand, is AMD's internal codename for a project that combines a motherboard with the 780M mobile chipset and unique audio amplfier cards utilizing chips from D2Audio specifically for use as a home entertainment component. The amplifier module is a key to the system's appeal. The proposition is simple: Instead of yet another box to add under your TV, eliminate the usual amplifier or receiver and keep it all in one box, running the speakers directly from the HTPC. Powering five speakers is not something any onboard sound card in a motherboard can do. Normally, you'd have to run powered speakers that have built-in amplifiers and use the preamp output of the sound card. AMD says that this is no gimmicky add-on, but a capable, high quality amplifier at a very good price point .

Another available option in place of the 5-ch amp is a 7.1 preamp board, also based on a D2Audio chip, that fits into the PCIe 4X slot. One of these came along with the system. We chose not to examine the preamp. The preamp and amp cannot both be used simultaneously in the same system, and all the MSI Visa boards for sale are bundled with either the amp or the preamp, and there's no separate amp or preamp purchase option. The preamp is not as appealing because it dictates the use of an external amp; doing away with another electronic box under your TV is what appeals about the 5-ch amp.

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