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


View All Comments

  • Pirks - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 - link

    Jeebus, you'd prefer PCI-e x16 and Wi-Fi with uberslow CPU like Atom? If you check newegg you'll find a bunch of AM2 mini-ATX mobos better that this slow Intel p.o.s.

    Say this one http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...">http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8... has Wi-Fi and desktop DDR you love so much.

    Ah, whatever, if you love uberslow CPUs so be it. I'll never get it why people buy Atom p.o.s. for desktops when there are so many excellent and cheap AM2 solutions around.
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, May 13, 2009 - link

    Notice he said LGA board, look at the last image on the last page. Not referring to the Atom board that was the subject of most of the article. Reply
  • kalrith - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 - link

    I'm curious as to why this is in the video-card section and not in the motherboard section Reply
  • Zingam - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 - link

    PMU Versoin - don't these guys ever read what they type? And if that's a final version - I don't want to touch it. If there are mistakes like that I don't want to image what other bugs could they have implanted into it.

  • DigitalFreak - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 - link

    They must have the DailyTech guys proofread for them. Reply
  • AmdInside - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 - link

    Just curious how well the motherboard w/ dual core ATOM would do with MAME? I am tempted to build a new HTPC on this but it must also play my MAME games smoothly. Reply
  • vajm1234 - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 - link

    in b/w the winrar and WOW charts ""Once more, the Pentium 4 gets beat by the Atom 330 but loses to the Atom 230."" :P Reply
  • KidneyBean - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 - link

    I hear that sometimes when you make a computer without any moving parts (using a flash drive) that sometimes a component will emit electrical buzzing noises. Did you hear anything like that?

    I may use this as a desktop computer.
  • KidneyBean - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 - link

    Never mind, I wouldn't use this as a desktop computer. For me, any power savings would be cancelled by the slow performance. Reply
  • KidneyBean - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 - link

    I like how you provided a comparison to the Pentium 4. I'm often upgrading people from older computers to newer ones and it's nice to be able to tell them how much faster the newer ones are. People who still have a high speed Pentium 4, and don't do gaming, are about at the point of needing to upgrade. Good job! Reply

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