Intel ATOM 230 versus VIA Nano L2100 – Battle of the Mini-ITX Platforms

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Intel BOXD945GCLF Motherboard

The Intel BOXD945GCLF motherboard comes with a 1.6GHz Atom 230 processor soldered to the board and is the system that everyone is talking about when it comes to the Intel Atom processor. The BOXD945GCLF features an Intel 945GC Northbridge with an ICH7 Southbridge and integrated GMA950 graphics, so it is built using tried and true chipsets that were once nearly flagship parts for Intel’s desktop platforms. This motherboard comes complete with a soldered-on Atom 230 processor for just $66.00 plus shipping, which is a great price considering the Intel Atom 230 processor costs $29 alone.

Intel Mini-ITX

The Intel BOXD945GCLF motherboard is a mini-ITX board and doesn’t have too many bells and whistles to be honest. The board has just a single DDR2 memory slot for up to 2GB of 533MHz memory and a legacy PCI slot as the lone upgrade slot. Many might not like the fact that the Intel board doesn’t support a x16 PCI Express slot, but for this price point it shouldn’t be a deal breaker.  Those that want better graphics can still get DirectX 10 based PCI graphics cards as companies like Albatron offer GeForce 8600 GT graphics cards with a PCI interface. The Intel D945GCLF motherboard requires both the 20-pin ATX power connector and a 4-pin ATX power header for proper operation. The board has two SATA headers (the VIA Nano reference system has four) and that might be an issue for those wanting to run multiple hard drives and an optical drive for example. One PATA (IDE) header is found on the board, which gives you the ability to run up to four devices of your choice.

Intel Mini-ITX

The rear I/O panel sports a pair of PS/2 connectors, four USB 2.0 connectors, a serial and parallel header, a single 10/100 NIC, 2+2 channel HD audio and a VGA output.

Intel Mini-ITX

I’ve seen tiny processors, but the Intel Atom processor takes this to a new level. The Intel Atom 230 processor is the smallest desktop processor I have seen. The processor model that comes on this motherboard is the Atom 230 that runs at 1.6 GHz on a 533MHz FSB. The chip includes a 32KB L1 instruction cache, 24KB L1 data cache, and a 512KB L2 cache. Intel manufactures this processor on its high-k 45nm fab process and the Atom has roughly 47 million transistors jammed into a die that’s only 24.2 mm².

Those of you with a sharp eye will notice that the Intel Atom 230 is passive cooled and the chipset heat sink with a fan on it is for the Intel 945G Express north bridge chipset. The Intel chipset that is located on the board without a heat sink is the Intel ICH7-M south bridge. At first glance we thought the Intel Atom 230 was being cooled by the fan, but it is actually the chipset and not the processor!

Intel Mini-ITX

One of the nice things about the  Intel BOXD945GCLF motherboard is that it is retail and is shipping with the Intel Express Installer, so all you have to do is click install now and all the platform drivers will be installed for you in the proper order. The Intel D945GCLF motherboard is rock solid thanks to the latest BIOS update and the driver installation is quick and easy. Let’s take a look at the BIOS on the Intel D945GCLF motherboard.

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