Atom, Athlon, or Nano? Energy-Savers Compared

Atom Platform: ECS 945GCT-D

ECS puts Intel’s 945G chipset and the Atom 230 processor on a mini-DTX form factor, which is somewhat funny given that AMD introduced DTX. The mini-DTX dimensions are only slightly larger than those of mini-ITX, which is used by VIA. The increased footprint is large enough to accommodate a x1 PCI Express slot and a 32-bit PCI slot for expansion cards. The VIA EPIA board only offers one x16 PCI Express slot.

945G Is A Curse And A Blessing

Intel’s chipset strategy in the low-power segment is questionable—while the Atom processor represents the maximum power savings on an x86 processor, the chipset is already three generations old. The 945G supports most of the necessary features such as DDR2 memory, plenty of USB 2.0 ports, PCI Express, and an UltraATA/100 channel for legacy devices, and it is extremely compatible thanks to its age and maturity. You’ll be able to run virtually any system on an Atom processor based on the 945 chipset family.

However, the aged chipset does not match the Atom’s efficiency in any way. It is a desktop chipset that has desktop power requirements, which means that it is in the area of 15 W or even more. Compared to the processor’s 4 W TDP, this almost makes a mockery out of Intel’s platform approach. We understand that using 945G makes perfect sense from a business standpoint, but it does by no means reflect Intel’s claims of providing balanced platforms. It more about low cost than it is low-power.

Average Features

The ECS 945GCT-D offers all the 945G chipset features including multiple USB 2.0 ports, two SATA ports, Gigabit networking, HD audio, and UltraATA/100, but it does not offer digital display outputs. The serial port may be helpful for some applications-–VIA has one, too. Gigabyte doesn’t offer this on the 780G board for the Athlon 64 2000+.