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The MicroATX Alternative

Shuttle XS29F: Is VIA's Nano Processor Powerful Enough?

Both of today’s low-energy compact platforms are configured as barebones PCs, a market long-served by Micro ATX competitors. Yet most of those Micro ATX competitors come at low-ball prices using low-quality cases and power supplies. We decided to put something together to represent a similarly-priced market using Intel’s 35W Celeron 430.

Using an older 65nm production technology (the same scale as VIA’s Nano series), Intel's Conroe-based Celeron 430 offers reduced power consumption via a relatively low 1.80 GHz clock speed, with additional power savings coming from the fact that Intel disabled one of its two processing cores.

The ECS G45T-M2 provides slightly upscale features compared to motherboards of low-cost prebuilt systems, starting with its G45 Express northbridge and ICH10 southbridge. Integrated X4500HD graphics support HD video acceleration, a feature lacking from the cheaper G43. Even bigger cost savings could be found in the G41 chipset, which reduces USB 2.0 support from twelve to eight total ports through the older ICH7 southbridge.

The G43 is specifically targeted at the same office use we were hoping to address in today’s platform comparison, yet with the same power consumption for both versions and no HD video test in today’s benchmarks, it was easier for us to use the version we had on hand. Low-cost pre-built systems will typically come with the even cheaper G41 and often have the PCI Express x16 slot omitted.

Combining the $40 Celeron 430 processor and $70 G45T-M2 motherboard with a good-quality microATX case and power supply combo brings the total cost of this “barebones microATX solution” to $170-$210, compared to $190 for the X27D. The XS29F has not yet been priced.

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