Of all of the technologies VIA introduced over the years, I never expected a form factor to be its lasting legacy on the PC industry. The most ubiquitous of VIA’s technologies were its chipsets which are all but gone now - used only by VIA for the most part. VIA’s form factor however, lives on.

The form factor is ITX. Originally introduced by VIA to accompany its line of low-power microprocessors, long before Atom, ITX was designed to deliver much smaller computers than what was defined by the micro-ATX spec.


From front to back: Mini-ITX, micro-ATX, ATX

Intel was actually first to market a mini-ITX Atom based motherboard: the D945GCLF. Based on a single-core Atom 230 running at 1.6GHz, the D945GCLF is a relatively simple motherboard.


Intel's first desktop Atom board

It has a single DDR2 DIMM slot supporting up to 2GB of memory (DDR2-400 or 533 only). There’s no support for a modern day GPU, there’s only an old 32-bit PCI slot on the motherboard. You get two SATA and one PATA connector on board, four USB, no DVI/HDMI output (only VGA) and a standard set of three analog audio ports.


The tall heatsink in the back is for the chipset, the small one is all you need for the CPU

As its name implies the D945GCLF uses Intel’s 945G chipset and correspondingly slow graphics. However if you don’t need a ton of performance, Intel’s desktop Atom solution is quite attractive as it sells for under $70 - CPU included (it’s soldered onto the board).

With the quiet introduction of the dual-core Atom, Intel released the D945GCLF2. Nearly identical to its single core predecessor, the D945GCLF2 uses a larger heatsink on the CPU and a smaller one on the GMCH (although it is still cooled by a fan). The board also uses a 24-pin ATX power connector instead of a 20-pin connector, adds S-Video out and a Gigabit Ethernet port (the D945GCLF only has a 10/100 port).


The dual core D945GCLF2 adds a second core to the Atom platform.


Bland ports on the D945GCLF2

The biggest difference is obviously the inclusion of the Atom 330 processor, which is simply two Atom 230 die on a single package - both running at 1.6GHz:


A dual core Atom 330

The faster CPU raises the total price up to $80, still very affordable.


The 45nm Atom processor runs significantly cooler than the 945 GMCH on the board (center chip).

The Intel desktop Atom boards both work just fine but they’re a bit boring. They are reminiscent of Intel’s older motherboards, before it took competition from the tweakable Taiwanese motherboards seriously.

Zotac is the first manufacturer to produce a mini-ITX motherboard based on NVIDIA’s Ion platform. Take Intel’s Atom processor, pair it up with NVIDIA’s Ion chipset (which is basically a GeForce 9300 chipset) and you have the Ion platform.

 

The Zotac Ion Up Close
POST A COMMENT

93 Comments

View All Comments

  • KidneyBean - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 - link

    Isn't it stealing to use Media Player Classic if you use patented decoders without paying for them?

    If so, I would hope you don't publish such information in articles in the future.
    Reply
  • Penti - Friday, May 29, 2009 - link

    Nope infringement is never steeling. It's pretty okay as long as it isn't used commercially. Usually your allowed to use any patents for personal use though. So it's fine. You won't go to jail. Of course he won't publish stuff that discourage the use of homebrew codecs and software that are needed for playing warez and illegally ripping your movies. It would be silly as that's what people use computers for, especially htpcs. It would really be a limited worthless device without it. Reply
  • sprockkets - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 - link

    With MPEG4, you only pay what you publish with it, not decode.

    DXA for nvidia cards is clearly documented on how to use it.

    Dolby Digital is another story, but seeing as how you can send the bitstream to your receiver to decode it legally, what's the big deal?
    Reply
  • Jeffk464 - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 - link

    I don't understand what the major need is to have a low power desktop. If it plugs into the wall its not really an issue like it is with notebooks. Its seems like the main focus for a Home Theater PC should be in keeping things quiet. Why not use a notebook processor and focus on making a super quiet heat sink and fan. I like the idea of compact pc's but HP has managed to squeeze a full on systems with a high end cpu onto the back of a lcd display in a nice little package. Reply
  • cosmotic - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 - link

    How are Flash (normal animation and (HD)video) and Java graphics performance?

    For Java, you can install the JDK and double click the jar:
    C:\Program Files\Java\jdk1.6.0_13\demo\jfc\Java2D\Java2Demo.jar

    The composite and transform demos would be particularly helpful.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 - link

    I've been meaning to talk about FLV performance, I'll try and include that in a short followup soon.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 - link

    The version of the Intel LF2 board you have here is already being pulled from the channel. It's replacement is the LF2D, which loses the S-Video port. Not a huge loss, as most people who tried to use it could not get what they wanted out of it (does not support different content to both the VGA and S-Video ports).

    Was Vista the OS for all the tests? I am using an LF2 board in my carputer with 1GB RAM, running a somewhat stripped-down version of XP on a 7200RPM 2.5" drive. Running on the car touchscreen (7", 800x480) or in PIP on my desktop monitor, and it feels pretty snappy in general usage. If I give it the full 1920x1200 though it slows down a lot, especially in my front-end software. Also, the image quality over VGA is not as good as some laptops I have hooked up to that monitor over VGA.

    For carputer use I would like to see a better onboard audio codec and more ports. The 3-port thing doesn't give much flexibility on inputs and outputs.

    Is the increased power consumption of the Intel boards due to using a standard ATX PSU? Did you consider getting one of the Pico-PSUs (like this: http://www.mini-box.com/picoPSU-150-XT-102-power-k...">http://www.mini-box.com/picoPSU-150-XT-102-power-k... ) to try on a more comparable basis? Also, is there any way to test the draw on each rail? The Intel boards are not really compatible with the lower-powered Pico-PSUs due to rather excessive draw on the 5V rail.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 - link

    Vista was the OS used for all of the tests and I'll second what you're saying, I've found XP far snappier than Vista with these Atom based systems. I just stuck with Vista to keep the results somewhat comparable to other CPU results.

    I did use a standard ATX power supply on the Intel boards but that's why I also tossed in the Eee Box results to show you what an Atom system with a smaller PSU can do.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • Jeffk464 - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 - link

    I don't understand what the major need is to have a low power desktop. If it plugs into the wall its not really an issue like it is with notebooks. Its seems like the main focus for a Home Theater PC should be in keeping things quiet. Why not use a notebook processor and focus on making a super quiet heat sink and fan. I like the idea of compact pc's but HP has managed to squeeze a full on systems with a high end cpu onto the back of a lcd display in a nice little package. Reply
  • sprockkets - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 - link

    Look at the prices on logic supply for a laptop socket itx board and how much the processor is and you will see how much cheaper this setup is.

    Besides, the vast majority of Anandtech readers prefer to build ourselves, not buy OEM crap.
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now