Cooling And Temperatures
The Atom board does not have a fan, rather being fitted with two passive cooling elements. The large cooling element is for the northbridge and is as tall as the memory modules, allowing the board to be installed in a very squat housing. The smaller element is for the Atom processor itself.
The 4 watt Atom 230 CPU does not require a fan for cooling.
Even after an hour of operation at full load, the Atom 230 achieves a maximum temperature of 83 °C. According to the Intel specification, the Atom 230 processor is capable of handling a core temperature of up to 99 °C. However, should the unit reach the maximum temperature, due to bad housing ventilation for example, it is still able to protect itself using Thermal Monitor 2.
The ICH7 southbridge is capable of handling temperatures up to 108 °C and the system doesn’t even come close to achieving this. The 22 watt 945GC northbridge can, according to specification, handle a core temperature of 99 °C. The northbridge cooling element achieved a temperature of 77 °C, which means that the core became too hot, exceeding 99 °C.
After an hour of operation at full load, the board without fan showed no sign of instability. The use of a fan to cool the northbridge is, however, essential for it to have a long lifetime.