The layout of the Nano reference board is more sophisticated than the Intel G945GCLF, with no sign of an ATX 12V connector that Intel decided to include. VIA has added a PCI Express expansion slot and supplies two DDR 2 memory slots where Intel felt that one would suffice.
When the Nano system starts the CPU fan spins at 4300rpm by default which seems awfully fast and noisy. Happily, you can change the fan setting from Enabled to Auto or - God help you - Disabled. By default, the Auto setting sets a lower temperature limit of 65°C and an upper limit of 75°C, and once we had the fan on Auto, the Nano system was transformed. Initially, the fan doesn’t turn until the system is under load at which point it picks up when the heatsink hits 50°C or so. It works perfectly.
VIA's Nano reference board: top down
We installed the same 32-bit Windows Vista Ultimate Edition SP1 that we had used on the Atom and ran 3DMark06, PCMark05 and POV-Ray. In its reviewer’s guide, VIA picks and chooses benchmarks with a great deal of care. It highlights the CPU element of PCMark05 and claims a score of 1418 for the Atom and 2089 for the Nano. Those figures are very similar to our own results of 1379 and 2052, but that’s only part of the story.
After we published our Atom review, a number of readers pointed out that it’s all well and good for the 1.6GHz Atom 230 to have a 2.5W TDP but this was dwarfed by the power draw of the chipset - which is the reason why Intel stuck an active cooler on the chipset and a passive heatsink on the CPU.
PCMark05 favours GenuineIntel CPUID
Does no-one at El Reg read Slashdot or Ars Technica? Ars demonstrated that just changing the CPUID of the Nano to "GenuineIntel" improves the memory subsystem benchmark by 47.4%, pushing it significantly above the Atom for memory. I'm not making this up, check the Ars Technica "Low-end grudge match: Nano vs. Atom" by Joel Hruska (29 July 2008). Worth a mention, if only for the PCMark/Intel conspiracy...
So it's unlikely to play Crysis then?
What a pile of rubbish. Where does this (p)review show that Nano is twice as fast as Atom? What are the specs of the test system - memory, hard drive(s), power supply? What did you do to it to push it to 80W? I can do 80W with a 45W dual-core AMD (under $100 including mATX mobo, miniITX might be more expensive), 1GB DDR2 and a "green" Caviar, so either the Nano, or the review is full of crap.
"As VIA SN hardware sells for £150 ... that suggests Nano might be three times the price of Atom. Ouch.
If so, it'll be roughly three times the price of a comparable Atom."