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Intel Atom: ECS 945GCT-D

Efficiency: Core 2 Nukes Atom On The Desktop
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Once again, we used the ECS motherboard 945GCT-D, which is based on the 945GC chipset and the Atom 230 processor at 1.6 GHz. As you can see in the photo, which we took after removing all heat sinks, the Atom processor is the smallest of all the components (right side). The large part in the middle is the 945GC Memory Controller Hub (MCH), while the chip to the left, visibly marked with the name “Intel,” is the southbridge, also known as the ICH (I/O Controller Hub).

MiniITX for Net Tops

The MiniITX form factor is conducive for small form factor PC builds. Any kiosk solution, vending machine, information terminal, or system for medical applications could be based on such a platform. The board offers two Serial ATA ports for hard drives or optical drives, one UltraATA channel for up to two legacy storage devices, one x1 PCI Express slot and one 32-bit PCI slot for expansion cards. There is a HD-capable sound system, two fan headers, two DDR2 DIMM sockets and eight USB 2.0 ports. Four of them are ready to be used on the board’s back panel.

Limitations

The concept does have severe limitations, which are mainly important for desktop users. You cannot install any of the recent graphics cards that require x16 PCI Express. This means that you have to use Intel’s GMA950 graphics engine, which is good enough for an operating system’s graphic interface or SD video, but won’t please any user with specific performance requirements such as HD capabilities or 3D performance. However, the processor probably is the most noticeable limitation, as it cannot be swapped out. You would have to replace the entire platform if it were to fail or become too slow for your requirements. Luckily, such a solution costs less than $90.

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