Efficiency Analysis: Core i3 Trumps Atom On The Desktop

The Predecessor: Atom 230 And ECS 945GCT-D

Atom 230 (Diamondville) was released in 2008 and still roundes out Intel’s portfolio at the entry-level. All Atom solutions come with the processor soldered onto the motherboard, which is advantageous when squeezing into the mini-ITX form factor. At the same time, this means that an Atom platform has no processor upgrade path. You get what you get, period.

Atom 230 is a single-core product with Hyper-Threading support, giving the operating system two virtual processing cores. It is 64-bit-capable, but other desktop features, such as SpeedStep, Virtualization Technology, Trusted Execution Technology, and others, aren’t available. Atom 230 runs at 1.6 GHz and comes with 512KB of L2 cache. Its 4W TDP is amazingly low, but you still have to add 22.2W for the 945GC chipset (Lakeport) and 3.3W for the ICH7 southbridge.

We tested with an ECS 945GCT-D. The board comes with the 945GC chipset and Atom 230 processor, and features a PCI slot, one x1 PCI Express port, and two DDR2 DIMM sockets. Lacking any digital display or audio outputs won't endear the board to sophisticated users, but it should serve well enough in point-of-sale (POS) and kiosk applications.

The ICH7 southbridge offers two SATA 3Gb/s ports and an UltraATA/100 channel for legacy parallel ATA devices. Four USB 2.0 ports are available on the connector panel. Four more can be enabled through two headers and slot adapters.

We did not include a dual-core Atom solution in this review (Atom 330) since the majority of systems shipped are based on single-core models.