Intel Atom 230 ultra low-power desktop CPU
Build your own Eee
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.