We found that the motherboards provide similar levels of performance. AOpen has some advantages in many benchmark runs, but these appear to have been achieved by factory-overclocking the system bus. We measured a 2,018 MHz CPU clock on the AOpen, while the DFI board had the Pentium M 755 running at 2,005 MHz. We don't know how often we have to repeat this, but overclocking should always be left as an option for the customer, not a forced factory default. DFI deserves credit for not playing this game just to win benchmarks.
In terms of feature set, the two manufacturers go in rather different directions, as they try to address different market segments. For home use you certainly won't need the DFI board's PCI-X slot, since almost all multimedia components are PCI. However, the 855GME-MGF will win friends in the industrial sector, especially since DFI has been pretty active in this area for years. AOpen, on the other hand, offers two network interfaces, making it a perfect choice for multimedia and networking applications at home or in the office.
It was good to see that both companies include suitable CPU coolers, since it will be hard to find Socket 479 models at most retailers. Both systems were impressive in that they work with amazingly low noise levels and provide decent performance. However, while the Pentium M is fast enough for most of today's applications, it certainly won't match the fastest Athlon64 systems. In particular, the 90 nm Winchester core is a fast and energy-efficient processor that will enable AMD to fight for market share when it comes to low-power environments.
In the near future, Intel is going to release the Alviso platform for the Pentium M. This will represent a major step, introducing FSB533, Dual DDR2-533 and other features that are already well-known in the 900 series chipset family. Alviso should help Intel catch up with AMD in this market segment.