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$70 Intel Mobo/CPU threatens Via's dreams

Mini ITX gets commoditised
Tue Aug 21 2007, 10:51
IN OLD TAIPEI last June, we reported on two low cost PCs based around the Intel D201GLY motherboard.

This micro ATX desktop board, which is mini ITX compatible, has been available in US shops since late June. A brief review with benchmarks has been published in Japan. But no English versions could be found, so hence this piece.

When making the rounds of my local Fry's Electronics, this motherboard was displayed next to a similarly sized EPIA M10000 system board from Via. What made my jaw hit the floor was the price that was being asked - just $70. Newegg was asking $20 more.

To date, mini ITX motherboards have carried a hefty premium. The Via EPIA board was $100 more. Newegg had another mini ITX-based offering for $79.99. But that ships with the outdated Via C3 processor, which is no match for the Yonah-based chip of its Intel counterpart. Intel has demonstrated that these mini ITX boards were overpriced. It will be interesting to see how Via responds.

Having been able to handle the Intel display board, it's evident that it's a quality product, it uses a SIS chipset. Intel can afford to back that quality with a three year warranty.

CPU upgrades are impossible, as the Yonah-based 65nm Celeron chip, which has a 533MHz FSB, is soldered to the board. But it does tick along at 1.33GHz, and has 512KB of level two cache, which is plenty of horse power for its target markets.

The SIS Mirage 1 graphics is integrated into the north bridge chip, which supports DirectX 7. The manual didn't say what the graphics memory footprint is, or whether it's configurable. But the SIS spec did say that it supports up to 64MB of shared memory, so it should be changeable in BIOS.

Of course, this board was built down to a price. Single IDE, PCI and DDR2 interfaces would appear to limit flexibility. But a dual PCI extender, which plugs into the PCI connector, would double the number of slots. A 512MB stick of DDR2 can be picked up for around $20, so a single memory slot isn't an issue.

Forget about using that old floppy drive, as the board connector has been dispensed with. A 10/100 LAN chip is built in, and the AC'97 audio delivers stereo sound.

Even though this board has had its interfaces pared down, it does ship with USB2. Two ports are located on the back panel and two onboard headers support four additional ports.

Officially, this board only supports three flavours of Windows XP - Professional, Home and Starter Edition. But Intel's web site does provide Linux video drivers for some distributions. IGP and IDE drivers are available from the SiS web site for Windows 98, 98SE, Me and W2K, so those who want to use or dual boot an older OS could do so.

This board has a min/max power draw of 45 and 175 watts respectively. Minimum load assumes a light power draw where no applications are running and no USB current is flowing. Maximum load assumes a power draw similar to a heavy gaming environment with each USB port drawing 500mA.

Acoustically, Intel says that the board delivers low sound emissions, which is good news for those who require a low sound environment.

Because micro ATX boards are ATX compatible, this motherboard is perfect for upgrading an older, antiquated system. Both the optical and hard drives, case, power supply, monitor and software could all be reused. If just the motherboard and memory (512MB) were purchased, the upgrade cost would be around $100, which is a lot cheaper than buying a complete, new system.

Older ATX power supplies may not have the required 12V 2x2 connector, which provides the processor's core voltage. The manual warns that not using one or the correct power supply may result in “damage to the board”. To overcome this, a ATX12V adaptor cable can be purchased, which plugs into one of the power supply's peripheral connectors.

Intel is marketing this board and others as part of its Essential Series, which the chip giant hopes will reach the next billion users. This specific board targets the ultra value market segment, so there is no real criticism that can be leveled against it. Well done Intel.

Because of its sales potential, the D201GLY board may prove to be a landmark product. Dell already uses a similar board in its EC280 desktop computer. If high channel sales doesn't jack up the price, many will flow through there as well.

The D201GLY certainly fits the bill for those looking to build new or upgrade at minimum cost. For VIA though, the chip giant has certainly put the cat among the pigeons. µ


See Also
SIS Intel, Dell low-cost PCs look remarkably similar

Intel D201GLY page
Japanese review


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