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Atom 330 Nettop motherboards are perfect for all XP users.

January 21, 2010

Are you listening, industry? Atom 330 nettop motherboards are the perfect motherboard replacements for EVERY Windows XP machine that I have seen thus far. The dual-core Atom 330 runs circles around even a 2.8GHz single-core Pentium 4, and at about a tenth the power consumption (hence, heat). Not only do these nettop boards provide an extra core (with hyperthreading on each core, so effectively 4 cores), but they can help prolong the life of the existing components, like the PSU and hard drive.

We need more options, though. The current lineup consists of the D945GCLF2/D board from Intel, with an Intel 945 chipset and GMA 950 graphics – the only chip on the board that needs a fan is the power-hungry northbridge. It has 1xDDR2, 2x SATA, 1x ATA100, 1 PCI slot, and a good handful of legacy ports on the back. The other board I just stumbled on is an ECS 945GCD-M board with an Atom 330 (I only look at Atom 330 boards; the 220 is insulting). It solves the slot problem with 2x DDR2 slots, 1 each of PCI-E 16x, PCI-E 1x, and PCI. It also has an additional SATA port.

Both of these boards have a common flaw: for being drop-in replacement boards, they have rather arbitrary requirements and limitations. For example, even though the LPC bus controller (PS/2, serial, parallel) has a floppy controller, there is no header on either of these boards for a floppy drive. Many systems I use these boards to upgrade have a floppy drive, and I end up having to leave a dead floppy drive in the case. Also, there’s a 24-pin + 4-pin 12v connector on these boards. Why? The Atom is super-low-power, and does not need the additional power lines. With a simple adapter, we can get the +12v out of the way (for PSUs without the 4-pin connector), and the 24-pin connector only ever needs a 20-pin plugged in. It’s nice to have the option, but requiring the 4-pin connector is kinda unnecessary. Just take the power from the main 12v bus and spare us the trouble.

All this can be accomplished with a Micro/MiniATX form factor, which I’d really like to see more of on the market. With a MiniATX form factor to work with, it should be possible to cram a lot more into an Atom board than what we’re stuck with now.

You build it, I’ll buy it.

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