|Intel BOXD945GCLF2D Atom 330 mITX Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by Hank Tolman - Edited by Olin Coles|
|Wednesday, 15 July 2009|
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Closer Look: Intel 945GC
Intel has coined the name "nettop" for a computer costing under $299, and has designed the Atom processors with this in mind. The nettop machine is ideal for exactly what it sounds like, surfing the net. Asus made a similar series of machines known as the netbook. Nettops and Netbooks don't perform very well for playing games that require heavy duty graphics cards or low FPS rates. They do great, however, for surfing the web, listening to music, watching videos, posting to your blog, youTube, MyFace, SpaceBook etc., and even streaming media. These systems are extremely inexpensive and don't use a whole lot of energy. This makes them a great alternative for Home Theater PCs as well. It's something you can leave on all the time without worrying about sending your electricity bill through the roof.
The Intel BOXD945GCLF2D is the bottom end of the Atom 330 CPU/Motherboard combos. Its sole purpose is to provide a very inexpensive system for internet browsing and media playback. With that in mind, it isn't surprising that the box doesn't come with a lot in it. In fact, all you get is a driver disk, a quick reference guide, a rear I/O panel shield for your case, an IDE cable, and a SATA cable.
The board is tiny. I knew I was getting a mini ITX motherboard, but being the first I have ever used, I was quite surprised by the size. It's barely larger than the I/O panel and completely square. On the alternate version of this board (the BOXD945GCLF2) there is an S-Video out connector between the LAN/USB ports and the Audio Ports. This might make TV-Out an easier option, but then again, most HDTVs now come with a VGA port.
The tiny design for this and other ITX motherboards is perfect for home theater enthusiasts and has allowed for the recent design of many extremely small cases. One turn-off of the older HTPCs is that they took up far too much room and were harder to hide away. Also, they often created a lot of heat. The low power usage of the new Atom processor has eliminated that worry. In fact, as you can see, the processor uses only a heatsink for cooling, while the GPU uses a heatsink and fan.
The rest of the board is pretty simplistic in its design. There is moderate room for expansion using the single PCI slot. The provided Intel GMA 950 GPU is about the extent of the graphics capabilities with this board, however, because the PCI slot is not PCI-Express. You can use it to add in a Wi-Fi card, an eSATA card, or even a better sound card if that's what you're after. There is a single IDE channel and two SATA ports. There is even a little plug for an extra fan, just in case the 8W of power is overheating you. I find that quite unlikely, but extra cooling can't hurt.