Intel Atom 230 ultra low-power desktop CPU
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Gaming is out of the question but we were shocked to see that playing a Shrek DVD with CyberLink PowerDVD 7.2 brought the Atom to its knees with a CPU load of 80 per cent. The picture was jerky video and the audio stuttered. Again, you'd get better performance with XP on board instead of Vista.
For a laugh, we tried to watch a Blu-ray of Casino Royale but it wouldn’t play as the Intel graphics driver is incompatible with Blu-ray playback but that’s probably just as well.
As a comparison we tested another low-power Intel system that we’ve had on the shelf for some time. It’s an Asus N4L-VM DH motherboard with 945G chipset that supports Socket 479 mobile processors. We plugged in a 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo T2600 processor.
System Power Consumption Results
Power consumption in Watts
Thanks to the layout of the Asus we could use 2GB of DDR 2 in dual-channel instead of a single module a la Atom.
This isn’t exactly an apples-to-apples comparison as the N4L-VM DH and T2600 cost £200 together but the result is a small, quiet, low-powered system that works like a proper PC. DVD playback is flawless and it only loads the CPU at 15-20 per cent.
You can build an incredibly small and cheap PC around the D945GCLF, but the Atom CPU is a severe disappointment on the desktop as it doesn’t have the grunt to do any useful work. The bizarre form-factor and layout of the I/O panel also reduce the options for finding a niche for this incredibly cheap motherboard and processor. Perhaps the next-gen, dual-core Atom will make a world of difference but for now this is one to avoid unless you're really keen to build an internet-oriented PC.
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