Intel describes the Mini-ITX form-factor as backwards compatible with ATX and Micro-ATX which is true enough, but you know how silly a Micro-ATX motherboard looks in a tower case. Believe us when we say that this Mini-ITX board looks positively dwarfed when you install it in a small tower and hook it up to a desktop power supply.
Cooling fan too tall?
It would be far better if you had the option of using a tiny Mini-ITX case and power supply so you could use the Atom in an appropriately small PC and end up with something not unlike Asus' upcoming Eee Box desktop.
Take another look at the photo and let’s play ‘spot the component’. The bare chip next to the white PCI slot is the ICH7 southbridge, and next to that we have an aluminium heatsink with a 40mm fan that spins away at 5000rpm. It’s fairly quiet but the design of the cooler is rather crude, presumably to keep the price to a minimum. If the cooler was a little wider the fan could be bigger and slower and the cooler wouldn’t need to be so tall.
You might think that the heatsink covers the Atom CPU but in fact that’s the i945GC northbridge, which includes the GMA 950 graphics. It’s the tiny passive cooler over to the right-hand side that keeps the Atom processor under control.
Old Skool backplane
Turning to the I/O panel we felt as though we were back in the Dark Ages. We’ve got no objections to two legacy PS/2 ports but the layout is dominated by parallel and serial portage. They'd take up an unwelcome amount of space on any motherboard but it’s a real problem here as the D945GCLF is so tiny that it doesn’t have any space to spare.
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.