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5 Atom Mini-ITX Boards Reviewed
Posted on Sept 23, 2008 Go to:

Final Thoughts

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Success in the Mini-ITX world is all about filling niches, and each of the boards reviewed here fills a niche. The Atom 230 processor performs better and at a lower cost than their only real competition - existing VIA C7 processors - and VIA's next generation Nano boards haven't hit the streets yet. The Atom 330 performs markedly better than the C7 boards and is powerful enough for decent 720p video playback. We're very impressed with all the boards.

Intel D945GCLF *Buy this board*

The D945GCLF board is incredibly cheap, and paired with the right case makes for a very useful purchase. There's a limited port range (as with most of these boards) but for many tasks this really isn't a problem. A lot of people have bought and a lot of people will buy this board, with price being the ultimate deciding factor.

Gigabyte GA-GC230D *Buy this board*

Gigabyte's offering will fit many more cases than the D945GCLF and has the added benefit of solid capacitors and being overclockable. Our results with the 2.0GHz board were nearly comparable to the Dual Core board on some of our tests, though it did consume a little more power. The possibility of underclocking the CPU will also interest (an admittedly small subset) of our readers. The build quality seems a little better than the Intel boards, which don't waste any money on such frivolities as brightly coloured heatsinks and board connectors.

Jetway JNC91 *Buy this board*

Jetway's board has the lowest profile of the Intel and Gigabyte boards and as such will fit into practically any Mini-ITX case. Build quality is comparable to the Gigabyte, there are slightly more board headers and it doesn't require a 12V P4 power connector. These combined might just tip the balance in its favour over the Gigabyte and we can see this making its way into plenty of thin client cases and 1U chassis.

MSI MS-9830

The MSI board is a big leap away from the original Intel board and the board we liked the most. Build quality is extremely high, with some genuinely useful features - 2x Gigabit LAN, VGA and DVI output, plenty of serial ports and fanless operation. The MS-9830 board may not become a mainstream Atom Mini-ITX board but it does show what can be done with the CPU. We'll be very interested in looking at the more mainstream MS-9832 when it comes out.

Intel D945GCLF2 *Buy this board*

The D945GCLF2 is the real star of this review, effectively a D945GCLF with S-Video output and an Atom 330 CPU capable of 720p playback. We're very impressed that the Atom 330 has arrived so soon after the 230 - and rumours are that a 32nm Atom is next on the to do list for Intel. Our main hope here is that Intel haven't snaffled all the Atom 330s for their own boards. In the hands of the like of Gigabyte, Jetway, MSI (and several other manufacturers) there is the potential for some very interesting boards in the coming months.

What we'd like to see next...

The first 4 months of the Atom have been rather impressive. But some Mini-ITX users demand more than the basic feature set - they are a fickle lot. We'd like to see boards with DVI or HDMI. We're not so fussed about the Parallel port - why not remove that and create some space. We'd like to see more fanless Atom boards. We'd definitely like to see Atom boards with more than 2 SATA ports, and some RAID wouldn't go amiss either. All in all though, a very promising start.

Atom Board Comparison Table

Intel
D945GCLF
Gigabyte
GC230D
Jetway
JNC91
MSI
MS-9830
Intel
D945GCLF2
Chipset Cooling
FanFanFanFanlessFan
Graphics Outputs
VGAVGAVGAVGA + DVIVGA + S-Video
Audio Channels
45.15.15.15.1
Ethernet
10/10010/10010/1002x GigabitGigabit
RAM Type (1 slot, maximum 2GB for all boards)
DDR2 533DDR2 533DDR2 533DDR2 533 SODIMMDDR2 667
12V P4 Power Connector Required?
YYNNY
USB 2.0 Headers
24424
Serial Ports
11121
Serial Headers
00240
Parallel Port
11101
PS/2 Connectors (Keyboard and Mouse)
22202
BIOS allows overclocking
NYNNN
Mini PCIe
00010
Fan Connectors
22312
Common Features
USB 2.0 Ports4
SATA Connectors2
IDE Connectors1
PCI Connectors1

Many thanks to Intel, Gigabyte, Jetway and MSI and the Mini-ITX Store for their assistance providing samples for this review.

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