Intel Atom 230 ultra low-power desktop CPU
Build your own Eee
Review We recently reviewed Asus' Eee PC 901, which uses the new 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270 processor. Atom uses the same 45nm technology that you’ll find in the latest 'Penryn' Core 2 CPUs and it packs in some nifty power-saving features that result in a TDP of a mere 2.5W which makes it a natural choice for Small, Cheap Computers.
But there’s another side to Atom, as Intel also sells it in desktop form, the 230, which is likewise clocked at 1.6GHz. Atom processors are genreally soldered onto the motherboard so your choice of Atoms is limited to a single model. Buy an Intel D945GCLF motherboard - it was codenamed 'Little Falls' - and you get a 230 as part of the package.
Intel's D945GCLF: Atom on board
Take a look at the photo and you’ll see that the board's a Mini-ITX model that measures a mere 171 x 171mm. That’s small. Take another look and you’ll see that it’s something of a strange Mini-ITX design as it uses desktop PC ATX power connections. There’s a 20-pin power connector and a four-pin ATX 12V connection which seems like overkill as the power draw of Atom is tiny. The D945GCLF has a single PCI expansion slot, so there’s no chance you’ll be plugging in a beefy graphics card, and this makes the power connections even more of a puzzle.
When we requested a D945GCLF sample from Intel the response wasn’t especially encouraging so we took the plunge and bought one. That’s not quite as bold as it sounds as Atom is very cheap. Intel sells the Atom 230 for $29 per CPU in batches of 1000 and the board and chip arrived at our door for £57 including VAT and carriage.
Had we wished we could have paid an extra £3 for an enhanced version that has the ATX 12V connector wired to the main power block so you see, we’re not the only ones who wonder what Intel was thinking.
A word on wattage
Given how utterly patethic that review was and I can't even work up the entusiasm to flame it, here's a word on what was ignored:
I recently built one of these using a "noah" case with a DC-DC converter in it, a samsung 1TB drive (about 16W idle, 17W active) an old laptop CDRW drive and a 2GB stick of DDR2. Whilst copying a buttload (technical term) of stuff across the network to it, the CPU usage was sitting pretty at ~5% in XP-64 and the power usage (as measured by a maplin plug-into-the-wall meter) was 37 watts. The most I've ever managed to get this machine to consume was 51W on startup when the drive was first spun up. This quickly dropped back to 40 and idle is usually around the 35W mark.
As for the "dark ages" ports, all I can say is thank christ they're there, I work on embedded systems and it's great to have a machine with useful connectivity. When you need something to "just work" and it's playing lame, it's so much easier to debug over serial or parallel interfaces. Most embedded systems have a UART hidden away somewhere, even if it's only an internal header. USB->RS232 converters just don't work reliably enough.
Next time, let's have a review that doesn't compare melons to the krasnoyarsk tractor museum.
Interesting that the Intel D201GLY2 motherboard has very similar power consumption overall and a PCMark05 CPU rating about 50% higher.
I think Intel rushed to market
I am waiting for the MSI Atom board with no fans.
I am an opinionated shit... so here goes
Actually, when it comes to doing WORK - by this I mean typing in stuff and scanning in the odd document and all, that sure - HIGH PERFORMANCE PC's and the TIME IS MONEY factor, do actually count for a real lot.....
But for all the really mundane "shit" it's probably a really good thing..
CHEAP, LOW POWER, SMALL and can play the really dumb basic kind of games... like Donkey Kong...
The ONLY 2 reasons I EVER upgrade is because my CHEAP, LOW POWER PC's either die (in part/s) from old age, or they just cannot hack having to scroll (page up / down) through 350 page documents, without coughing up their arse in the process.
But I have been computing away quite happily, on the last of the good stuff, remaining on the shelf - after it came out 3 or 4 years ago...
And I hang onto it all for a verrrrrrrrry long time.
So as to why I need to be buying the truck type PC's with the equivalent in power consumption, space taking, and running costs, the tripple bypass CPU's, the $900 graphics cards, the liquid cooling and screaming fans is beyond me.
CHEAP is good, and SUFFICIENT is enough.
Our call center is buying exactly one of these
We're getting one into our Indian (Pune) call center in order to give our applications atomic testing.
If it works then we'll roll out a few hundred systems with lower power chipsets and hopefully a smaller form factor, such as system in monitor.
It's not just the power for the systems themselves, we also have to worry about running the air conditioners to clean up that power wastage afterwards, because of course all call centers must be located in tropical countries with poor electrical grids rather than say Iceland or Norway.