Atom, Athlon, or Nano? Energy-Savers Compared

AMD Platform: Gigabyte MA78GM w/ AMD 780G Chipset

We looked for a socket AM2 platform that would be capable of supporting all sorts of processors, including the rather old socket AM2 single-core Athlon 64 processors based on the Lima core-–this is what we used for this review. The 8 W 1,000 MHz Athlon 64 2000+ worked immediately without any BIOS update, although the BIOS did not identify it by the correct model number.

All motherboard components are passively cooled, which for us is mandatory for a low-power system. A fan does not only introduce potential noise, but it also adds slightly more power consumption and a point of failure. The four-phase voltage regulator is powerful enough to even run a high-end Phenom X4 processor, and it is certainly capable of accommodating the low-power Athlon 64 2000+.

True All-In-One Solution

Compared to the other products, the Gigabyte AMD 780G motherboard is the largest one, as it has micro-ATX dimensions. But the advantages are obvious. You get four, instead of only two, DIMM sockets, six Serial ATA/300 ports (one eSATA), D-Sub analog VGA, digital DVI and HDMI outputs (the competitors only offer an old analog port, which is the least flexible), two 32-bit PCI slots, and one x16 PCI Express slot, plus another x1 PCIe slot for upgrades. The plethora of USB 2.0 ports should really please everyone, and there are even floppy and UltraATA connectors, as well as a FireWire/400 port and the now-mandatory HD audio.

Great System Power Consumption

You’d tend to believe that the large number features might be counter-productive to promoting a low-power platform. Typically, that’d be true. However, we used the same high-efficiency power supply for all test systems, which means that power consumption gets as low as it can be. In the case of the Athlon 64 2000+ system with Gigabyte’s MA78GM board, this was the same, amazing 28 W idle power that the other systems reached. Peak power was higher than the Atom system’s peak value, but it was lower than our measurements with the VIA system.