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Hardware Hacking Intel Build

Atom-Based Mini-ITX Motherboard Available 240

LWATCDR writes "A company out of the UK is selling an Intel Atom-based Mini-ITX motherboard. It has a riser for two PCI cards, two SATA ports, and an IDE ports so it could make a great little NAS, firewall, MAME box, or low-power workstation. To add to the fun it has a real parallel port 'perfect for hardware hacking,' a real RS-232 port 'perfect for data acquisition,' and two USB ports. The price is around $100, give or take, and hopefully it will come down over time. All in all a nice system to run Linux, WindowsXP, BSD, or maybe even OpenSolaris on."
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Atom-Based Mini-ITX Motherboard Available

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  • by YouWantFriesWithThat ( 1123591 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @10:32PM (#23470216)
    I could sniff a line of them and have a LAN in my sinus cavity!
  • nas not really (Score:5, Informative)

    by stokessd ( 89903 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @10:33PM (#23470226) Homepage
    I thought it would make a great mini NAS nut it only has a 10/100 nic. That was a bummer

    • If you don't need the PCI slot for anything else you can put in a gigabit card.
      • the pci bus can hit the full gig-e speeds.
        • by msim ( 220489 )
          I bought one of the Via C7 1GHz boards to run as a ultra low powered NAS server the other day, it ended up costing me $50AU posted (which is like $53US at the moment). As much as i'd love to keep getting the latest and greatest like this thing (which looks pretty damned nice). I guess i had to commit and buy something at some point, and at the price i paid, i got it dirt cheap.

          On the downside the board i got didn't have onboard SATA (which i knew when i bought it, but for $50 i could live with that compromi
        • just barely. PCI gives 133MBps (1.06Gbps) maximum.
          • by enoz ( 1181117 )
            I have used a gigabit ethernet PCI interface and the throughput never went higher than 20MB/s.

    • http://www.minitechnet.de/761.html?&cHash=1&tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=1&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=4619 [minitechnet.de] Features: * Intel® Atom(TM) processor 1.1 GHz BGA CPU * Intel® US15 Embedded Chipset * FSB 400/533 * 1x DDR2 240 pins DIMM * 2x PCI-Express 1x * 2x SDIO * Flat Panel Display Support by on board LVDS * 1x PCI slot * Up to256MB on board graphics memory * CRT, DVI (optional) * 1x 10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet * 8x USB 2.0, 3x RS232C * 1x ATA100 and 2x SATA150/300 IDE Controller * Compact Flash so
  • by simonbp ( 412489 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @10:34PM (#23470230) Homepage
    Wow, it has a serial and a parallel port! That's great! Now I can hook up both my MS serial bus mouse AND my dot-matrix printer; I'll be in Windows 3.1 heaven!
    • You may even be able to install one of those new fangled three dee accelerator cards in that PCI slot! Sounds like a bunch of voodoo to me though...
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by flnca ( 1022891 )
      You'd be surprised: Serial ports are still being used in industrial applications. And who doesn't like to connect text terminals to their computer? ;) (mainframes still use that, but it's also nice for UN*X boxes when you've got problems with a framebuffer driver or X ... really, a null modem cable can be a useful thing!)

      And parallel ports are still useful also, many printers still have a Centronics port in addition to the USB port. Often, the parallel port cabling is more reliable (and portable) that U
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 19, 2008 @10:40PM (#23470276)
    Great that the cpu is 4 watts, but how much does the whole motherboard take?
  • by FlyByPC ( 841016 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @10:43PM (#23470302) Homepage
    Nice to see manufacturers still including the venerable RS232 port. It may be old and slow, but it's very easy to work with, if you're an electronics hobbyist -- much simpler than implementing USB connectivity...
    • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday May 19, 2008 @10:58PM (#23470450) Homepage Journal
      I'd guess that this is also intended as a replacement for various DOS-based industrial control systems. It's small enough to fit even in enclosures that had weird custom PCs in them (such as some CNC machines) and yet has the serial and parallel ports needed to control such devices.
      • Exactly!! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Stoutlimb ( 143245 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @11:46PM (#23470756)
        The company I work for is using old bloated PC's with out dated knoppix running on them for computability reasons. Our mission critical industrial hardware runs partially on serial. USB to serial doesn't work, because of conflicts with other apps that use USB. They're always slow, unreliable, and power hogs. Since they are vehicle mounted, it's not uncommon to kill a deep cycle battery after a long days work, thus requiring a boost to start the vehicle. I'll be forwarding these specs to my boss.
    • Also handy for connecting to the serial console of other machines. When you can't ssh in to a machine because you screwed up the firewall, you can ssh into another machine on the network and accesss through the console.

      Also handy for configuring managed switches (cisco, netgear, riverbed, juniper, etc).

      Keyspan has the USB-serial thing covered, but needing to install drivers can get in the way sometimes.
    • It's a hell of a lot more reliable than USB as well, particularly over any distance, and you almost always get a mechanically-solid connection instead of something flimsy that will work its way loose at the most inopportune time. I generally go out of my way to avoid using USB in an industrial application, much preferring RS-232/485 or Ethernet where possible.

  • There was something that flew past the other day talking about how Via is going to be the next big player in x86 chips, blah blah blah...

    But even in the market Via pioneered, Intel and AMD now have superior offerings, both in performance and TDP.
  • Hmmmm. Assuming I could get your hands on a PCI graphics card with a modern chipset to offload the video decoding to, any bets on whether one of these would make a nice little media box? As long as the heavy lifting was done off chip I think it could handle 1080p. Heck, assuming said video card was DHCP compliant I could bundle one of these with a BluRay drive, already have all my media on a network drive. Be a nice little all-in-one media center front end box. Low power so should be whisper quiet.

    • by Runefox ( 905204 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @11:03PM (#23470498) Homepage
      Video cards have IP addresses now?

      That said, the Radeon HD 3450 would be great for that, if only that was a PCI-E slot. A Radeon 9250 or GeForce 6200 is about the most you'll get in PCI nowadays though...
      • I apologize for the transposition. It should have been HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection). It's the protected path DRM that BluRay needs to output properly. I blame the entire IT industry for running out of distinctive acronyms.
    • by jhol13 ( 1087781 )
      I doubt 1080p, I have not seen that much offloading from graphics processor. But then there's a lot I haven't seen :-)

      Besides, it has a fan and has no optical sound output.
      • Well, some of the new Nvidia and ATI cards will offload almost the entire H.264 and VC-1 decoding. Max out the RAM and I think this thing has a shot at doing smooth 1080p. Won't know for sure until someone does some serious benchmarks.
        • Even if they offloaded 90% of the work, it'd still probably require more CPU than the ATOM can provide for 1080p. Decoding 1080p h.264 is not a simple task.
    • So $100 for the box, at least $50 for a decent case and PSU, $100 for a video card that could handle 1080p, $50 for a rudimentary hard drive (storage on network, natch), $200 for a blu-ray drive...

      That comes down to about $500 for the whole she-bang.

      The flaw in your reasoning is that you want a PS3, which is cheaper, looks better, and is perfectly capable of being a streaming media player out of the box. Also, you can play games on it. I use it currently with TVersity on my main PC, though I've started tink
  • 4 watts? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by iminplaya ( 723125 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @10:57PM (#23470440) Journal
    And it needs a fan? My 486 consumes more than that and doesn't even need a heatsink. And what the hell is TDP [wikipedia.org] if it doesn't represent some real mathematical value instead of Madison Avenue mumbo-jumbo?
    • Re:4 watts? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by evanbd ( 210358 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @11:23PM (#23470634)
      If you read the page, the fan is on the northbridge, not the CPU. Which makes me wonder: how much power does the northbridge draw, anyway? And what's the point of a 4 watt CPU if the northbridge draws more than that?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        945G northbridges are rated somewhere around a dozen watts as they're made on the old 130 nm process node. My laptop has the 945GM and the northbridge actually runs hotter than the CPU, which isn't surprising as the CPU's TDP is a couple watts less (C2D U7500.)
        • by pla ( 258480 )
          945G northbridges are rated somewhere around a dozen watts as they're made on the old 130 nm process node.

          Well then, perhaps they should have used a nice efficient AMD 580 or 690 series chipset, at 7 and 8 watts, respectively. ;)

          Of course, that *still* draws more than this CPU, but the market for boards like this tend to strongly favor fanless. Having a fan, not to support a slightly better CPU but for a mere northbridge, just seems like adding insult to injury, IMO.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        If you read the page, the fan is on the northbridge, not the CPU. Which makes me wonder: how much power does the northbridge draw, anyway? And what's the point of a 4 watt CPU if the northbridge draws more than that?
        Lol, from the design brief for the 82945G GMCH chipset, the TDP of the chipset used is 22.2W (with system bus of 1066MHz, memory frequency of 667MHz and 2 dimms installed). That's only 5.5x the TPD of the actually cpu attached to it...
  • by eagl ( 86459 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @11:02PM (#23470490) Journal
    Deal killer for that board - no DVI or HDMI output combined with no PCI-e slot. Either the digital vid output or a slot suitable for a reasonably new video card with DVI/HDMI HDCP compliant output would be sufficient, but having neither makes this a rather bad choice for any type of HTPC and of limited use to many others who, like me, think a single analog video out port is a relic from the DOS ages.

    That said, for someone who wants a reasonably quick and low power system and doesn't mind an analog video output (car-puter builders?) this would be a great little motherboard.

    For me... No DVI and no reasonable way to add fast digital video out means it's not even on my lottery win wishlist.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      For me... No DVI and no reasonable way to add fast digital video out means it's not even on my lottery win wishlist.
      Why would it be on your lottery win wishlist? It's a hundred bucks. I'm only a student, and a hundred bucks is a lot of money, but it's nothing that can't be saved for.
      • by eagl ( 86459 )
        My lottery win wishlist is full of stuff that I either can't afford now, or don't want enough to spend any amount on but would like to have if it was either free, or I had so much money I could throw it away on stuff I don't really need or want that much.

        Like those little remote control helicopters that keep showing up on woot... I don't care that they're only $7, I simply wouldn't buy them because although I'd like to play with one I'm not willing to spend any money. So unless I can acquire them for free
        • Then this motherboard obviously isn't for you. No one's advertising it as a high-end card that will suit everybody's needs. If digital video-out is mandatory for you, then you're not the target audience.
          • by eagl ( 86459 )
            That was half of my point. The other half of my point is that the target audience is probably fairly limited, for no reason other than the lack of digital video output. If the board had DVI or HDMI output, or it had a pci-e expansion slot, in my opinion it would probably appeal to a much larger audience because it's a really neat motherboard that has one deal-killer missing feature.

            Even with a dual-slot PCI riser card, it would be tough to turn this board into a good HTPC mobo and a number of HTPC builder
            • by eagl ( 86459 )
              Whoops, the original submission doesn't mention HTPC. My mistake. Still, it's been mentioned enough that the point remains mostly valid.
  • For most of the older games it would be fine, but MAME has no support for hardware graphics acceleration. I use MAME on an Athlon X2 4800+, and it still chugs a bit on some "newer" games such as Mortal Kombat 3.
  • by eudaemon ( 320983 ) * on Monday May 19, 2008 @11:43PM (#23470730)
    Shipping from UK to the USA costs more than the device: they want 52.90GBP for the system, and 59.99GBP for shipping!
    Unless you want to pay 219.75 USD for this device, I highly suggest you find a supplier in the United States.

    • by IBBoard ( 1128019 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @03:30AM (#23472130) Homepage
      That's better than we get in the UK from the US. Most companies have hardware at a similar numbered price to in the UK (e.g. maybe £100 would sell for $120, which is ~£60 at the current exchange rate, or something equally stupid) and then we don't even get the option of shipping it to the UK! At least they're trying to be international ;)

      Also, the whole of /. doesn't reside in and around the US. There are visitors from other countries including Britain and Europe, you know ;)
  • Is there as cheap device into which I can plug a half dozen or more SATA HDs that will power them and connect them to a single PC SATA port? A SATA hub that works like a USB hub, even if it doesn't have hotplug functions?
  • by Yvan256 ( 722131 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @12:00AM (#23470834) Homepage Journal
    Intel has a much better board than this, erm, intel motherboard: the Intel D201GLY2A Little Valley Mainboard [logicsupply.com], 79$ in bulk packaging. And yes, that's a mini-ITX with a serial and parallel port and yes that includes the CPU too, an Intel Celeron 220 1.2 GHz, Conroe-L (65 nm) based on Intel Core microarchitecture.
  • I've been looking for something just about like this for a DVR project. I have the case modded nearly for this project, PSU basically picked. Just need a Motherboard. The basic plan was to remove the VCR mechanism, replace with a DVD/CD player and go from there... This looks like it might work nicely :)
  • looks fishy to me ... Most passively cooled northbridges on current mainboards generate more heat, so what's wrong with that CPU? The heatsink seems huge and it still has or needs a fan...

  • This is just an Intel D945GCLF: the price point will be about $60 USD, and it will be available everywhere by next month. It's very similar to the Intel D201GLY2 which has been available for the past year and sells for about the same price. The CPUs are an Atom 230 and Celeron 220 respectively. I assume they gave them those model numbers purposely so that those comparing would realize they're very similar, but the Atom is a slight notch above.
  • Supplier in USA (Score:4, Informative)

    by athloi ( 1075845 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @12:34AM (#23471016) Homepage Journal
    http://www.mini-box.com/Intel-D945GCLF-Mini-ITX-Motherboard [mini-box.com]


    I think this box would be an ideal computing appliance for the average user. Of course, I would recommend CentOS and a carefully configured set of applications and GUI.

    Think, like, your mom and dad checking their email and looking for bargains on Craigslist. At 4 watts.
    • Yeah, I was thinking the same about mini-itx board for a long time, too. Maybe this board is a bit cheaper, but I found any mini-itx configuration I looked for until now to have a higher price/performance than a mac-mini. It's not just the board, you'll still need the power supply, memory, HD, enclosure, maybe DVD drive etc. I guess that for mom and dad a mac-mini or EEE would be a better choice, because it's about the same price, but both the hardware and the OS are standardized. They will be able to solve
  • I spent a few minutes googling and came up with a US supplier with various mini-itx logic boards. One has gigabit ethernet. Others have HDMI, DVI and more:

    http://www.mini-box.com/s.nl/sc.8/category.100/.f [mini-box.com]

    And no... I have no connection with them ... but if they want to thank me for the plug, I could put some of these to use...

    Seems like I also hit another page that had mini-itx boards with a Duo 2 processor. Now, I just need to find one with a Duo 1 processor, put it in a tiny metal case and use to cook b
  • There are quite a few Mini-ITX options out there today.. Many of them are based on VIA CPUs (low power x86 compatible). Since the form factor is nothing groundbreaking, what is the advantage of this board?

    Is the "Atom" faster than a VIA C7? The C7 is not far behind the Atom in power consumption. With those CPUs, the power usage of all the other components makes the couple watts difference pretty negligible.

    To be really intersting, they need a few things:

    - Lose the fan. Low power, low heat, low noise
    • by bwy ( 726112 )
      Agree, the EPIA 5000 has been around for years and needs no fan. In this form factor I think a completely solid state solution is ideal.
      • A lot of passively cooled devices will overheat without some airflow in the chassis. That's why the D201GLY2 came with or without a mounted fan. I imagine the D945GCLF would be the same way.
    • Is the "Atom" faster than a VIA C7?
      Actually, it is [eeepcnews.de].
  • Gee, this was hard to find... http://www.mini-box.com/Intel-Mini-ITX-Boards [mini-box.com]
  • this place [pcconnection.com] has it for $81. Don't quote a UK site if you want to show of a low price :) Poor Brits have to pay way more than Yanks do for electronics.
    • Also, that original price is excluding VAT, so you're talking about £62, or about $120, after they slap on the 17.5%. That's about a 33% discount in the US compared to the UK!
  • I have had the Intel D201GLY2 for a while now on my Debian based server machine which has worked very well and only cost 57 euros. It has a 1,2GHz Celeron processor(More than enough for everything I need to throw at it, and much faster than the more expensive VIA alternatives) and a SiS chipset, otherwise it seems to be basically the same as this new D945GCLF. That is actually a bit disapointing since I would have expected a bit more, at least an integrated gigabit LAN chip and maybe a PCI-e slot.

    For light
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @03:08AM (#23472012)
    No ECC RAM support? Check!
    Stupid 4cm fan that'll buzz like a mofo, then fail? Check!
    No PCI-E slot, guaranteeing piss-poor video, Gbit ethernet or RAID? Check!
    Onboard 10/100, not Gbit? Check!
    Only one ethernet, making it harder to use as a router/firewall? Check!
    Forced 'Legacy IDE' SATA ports? No AHCI, no eSATA, no NCQ? Check!
    No hardware virtualisation functions? Check!
    Largely useless PS/2, IDE and parallel ports? Check!
    Made in a communist dicatorship with questionable human rights? Check!
    BIOS bugs galore? With Chinglish changelogs and a slow website? Check!
    Hundreds of pre-teen overclocking options? Check!
    A generous 12 month warranty, more than anyone could ever need? Check!
    Linux support? You'll let ME find out? Wow, bonus excitement!

    Let me know if I missed any...
    • by MattskEE ( 925706 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @06:59AM (#23473200)
      I don't have any of the "missing features" you list on my current desktop computer. I used to be a technophile, but since I became an engineer I'm too busy and lazy for that. Now I use my computer for: internet, watching TV/movies, bittorrent, Mathematica and Matlab (when I work at home), a touch of occasional photo editing (The Gimp), and word processing (Open Office).

      My computer has a 3GHZ (or so) P4, a gig of ram, an old 64MB video card, and 1.25TB of hard drive space. The processor is probably way overpowered for what I need. I built it over 4 years ago and haven't had any need to upgrade it it since, and I don't expect that I will need to for another several years. If XP gets too out of date I'll move to Linux before installing the Vista resource hog. I don't know why I'd need any of the features you list unless I was running a server, doing lots of photo/video editing, or playing the latest games, but like most computer users I'm not.

      To address you point by point:

      ECC: Who cares, it honestly does *not* matter if you have ECC ram.
      4cm fan: Have you ever seen a northbridge with a big fan? They don't need big fans. If it matters to you, take it off, replace it with a quieter one, or put on a bigger heatsink.
      PCI-E: Most people (including me) can get by on still-available PCI video cards. And people who buy mini-ITX video cards are not usually concerned about RAID. Side note: my work computer just got upgraded with a PCI video card because it has an apparently obscure PCI-E x8 port on the motherboard instead of x16 or AGP.
      Gigabit: Again, who cares. It's not a server. I rarely find myself transferring gigabytes of data between two computers on my network.
      Only one ethernet: When was the last desktop motherboard you bought with two ethernet ports?
      Old SATA: For the third time, it doesn't fucking matter even for most power users.
      DVI: All of the several monitors I own still use VGA.
      Hardware virtualization: Hell, I don't even know what that means, and I'm too lazy to google it.
      PS/2, IDE, parallel: I am typing on my IBM model M keyboard, it's PS/2. Ever try developing stuff to run off USB? It takes a lot more work than a parallel port to implement a USB connection. I know, because I've done both. The IDE may be unnecessary but the biggest cost is in implementing it is either board space or the connector cost itself, and both of those are pretty small.
      Made in a communist dictatorship: Yeah, a lot of stuff is made over there if you haven't noticed yet.
      "Pre-teen" Overclocking options: Why would that be bad? I won't use them, but I don't mind that they are there. It takes very little engineering, and even less production cost to include that.
      12 month warranty too long: Why exactly is it "too long"? Would you prefer a 90 day warranty?
      Linux support: Well, that's the only potentially valid point, but since it is using an Intel chipset and Intel graphics, I bet: (A) It is supported, and (B) you can confirm or deny that point easily via a web search.

      You should be modded Troll, I don't know why you're +5 Insightful.
  • by crhylove ( 205956 ) <rhy@leperkhanz.com> on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @03:11PM (#23480414) Homepage Journal
    So I've been rather seriously toying around with the idea of putting together a beowulf cluster, just to flex my tech muscles. What would be the most cost effective?

    I can get used xboxes from gamestop for $60 each, it looks like soon enough I'll be able to get atom boxes for about $200 each... They also have gamecubes down at gamestop for $50 each.

    What is the cheapest way to cluster, and how many nodes would I need to beat any core 2 duo out on the market? And what distro should I use, and can I get real time frame rates in something like ray traced quake 3 at a decent resolution?


"I have not the slightest confidence in 'spiritual manifestations.'" -- Robert G. Ingersoll