Review: Intel D945GCLF2 Dual Core 1.6Ghz ATOM Mainboard
I’ve been through many versions of the Carpc now how ever at the hart of my systems have mostly been Via boards. Starting with the 800 and the latest been the 12000 MII which is now a media PC. The VIAs have been fantastic and always done what I wanted although at times did struggle speed wise….. and then came along Intel with the Atom.
The Atom gives the best ‘bang for your buck’ I have seen today providing a competent processor of which I have yet to stretch and most importantly a graphics card that can run without compromising the systems response on my dual core unit. The board its self comes with both SATA and IDE on board as well as a plentiful set of USB and firewire connections as well as the normal ports on the rear so its pretty sorted for most situations.
I am one of those old guard still running XP on my Carpc ( and desktop tbh ) mainly because it does what it says on the tin so after installing SP3 and other supporting software for Centrafuse I was ready to go. For the most part the drivers where easily installed although I did download the latest from the Intel site and set these up in the car to make I had no problems with my screen as I had before with the Via ( monitor sync ). Running on a customised Cartft.com 700 CTF I was able to push it to 800x600 @ 75 htz which gives a really good picture how ever the onboard card can go a lot further than that as I will mention later.
System response is almost instant even when running CF2 (enhanced features ), .net apps, GPSgate and GPRS connectivity all at the same time which reinforced my trust in this mobo’.
I had some initial concerns because some people had reported the fan on the graphics CPU ( yep – graphics – the CPU its self is air cooled ! ) how ever Intel seems to have picked this up and provided a lower profile fan and heat sink. Because of this lower height this ITX sized monster is even able to fit in to a Zoom 2 case even with a CDROM installed. All the connections are clearly marked and once installed there is plenty of space at the backend inside to hide the excess cables.
As this was the Carpc I only installed 1 GB of low profile Kingston from Lancastrian-IT.co.uk
mainly because the first none brand DIMM I had fitted did not work with the Intel how ever I have not been able prove if this is the chip or an incompatibility issue as it too was new.
One of the Intel’s party pieces to really make it ideal for the Carpc and even other types of home brew customisation is the fantastic branding software they provide for free. This means your able to place your car logo on the bios screen ( the one that shows as you start it ) rather than the default Intel logo. If you couple this together with another app like Tuneup and set your front end as the shell you get a completely OEM look very easily.
To sum up I’ve used this day to day now for some time and I have no problem with the performance against my expectations and I fully expect this will support the upcoming Centrafuse 3 release meaning I will get more for my money as it moves with me through the new versions how ever I have found a couple of general problems. The first is the GPU fan…. When its cold it seems to have a tendency to make a grinding noise although it does not seem to be really affected in its movement. The noise does seem to go after its warmed up how ever because it is loosely attached it should not be a problem to replace if wanted. Another problem I have found is that the in built USB ports at the rear of the board ( not the ones from the internal headers ) really do seem to lack power. I have a number of devices which I wanted to fit in the 4 ports which are provided such as my portable hard drive and while I can get away with just plugging in one USB lead when using ports from the header I need to plug in two to provide some extra power when using the inbuilt ones.
These two problems also seem to exist on the second board I bought as a desktop replacement having been so pleased with the performance in the car so I guess they may be solves by a change of parts / firmware update.
The board in my desktop is exactly the same but with 2 GB of Kingston and I use this as my main home PC now. Having used a XP3200 64Bit with 2GB for some time before I can quite happily say its not struggled yet – and I mean that. I’ve even run Adobe CS2 with other apps in the background and it still keeps going. With a proper screen you can even get up to the resolution of 2048x1536 at 32bit which considering this is a surface mount graphics card is impressive but when you consider the price you get it at the value can not be ignored.
To sum up – for the price this is a truly impressive board both as a Carpc and even as a desktop which means Via have a real battle on their hand seeing as they are not ready today with their new generation which was recently announced. OK – its not going to play battle field 2142 ( although there is a PCI slot for a card ) I would and have already recommended this mobo’ and even pointed out when considering whether to get the single or dual core that little difference in cost is well worth the extra outlay. Well done Intel a fantastic product at the right price and having got it out before the rest of the players including some establish ones like Via they might just get the market share they are after.
Value for money 10/10
Processor Power 8/0
Over all 9/10
PS If you have an older board you can buy new heat syncs which are smaller from the following suppliers who also sell the Intels.
Intel Car-PC | Your Car-PC Shop !
LinITX.com - Intel Atom
The Intel® Desktop Board D945GCLF2 is designed to support Internet-centric computing, delivering incredible capabilities in the new flexible Mini-ITX form factor. Featuring the integrated 45nm dual-core Intel® Atom™ processor 330 and the Intel® 945GC Express Chipset, this board is an energy-efficient solution for home users as well as for unique vertical markets. Designed with Intel’s leading edge 45nm Hi-k metal gate processor, this board delivers incredible opportunities to communicate, listen, watch, play, and learn via Internet connectivity.
* Form factor: Mini-ITX /micro-ATX compatible (6.75 inches by 6.75 inches [171.45 millimeters by 171.45 millimeters])
* Processor: Integrated dual-core Intel® Atom™ processor 330 with a 533 MHz system bus
o One 240-pin DDR2 SDRAM Dual Inline Memory Module (DIMM) socket
o Support for DDR2 533/667 MHz DIMMs
o Support for up to 2 GB of system memory
* Chipset: Intel® 945GC Express Chipset and Intel® I/O Controller Hub 7 (ICH7)
* Audio: Realtek* ALC662 audio codec (5.1 channel HD audio)
* Video: Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator 950 & S-video output support
* I/O Control: SMSC* LPC47M997 based Legacy I/O controller for serial, parallel, and PS/2* ports
* LAN Support: 10/100/1000 Mbps LAN subsystem using the Realtek* LAN adapter device
* Peripheral interfaces:
o Eight USB 2.0 ports
o Two Serial SATA ports (3.0 GB/s)
o One parallel ATA IDE interface with UDMA 33, ATA-66/100 support
o One serial port
o One parallel port
o PS/2* keyboard and mouse ports
* Expansion capabilities: One PCI Conventional bus connector
* Power Input: 20pin/24pin ATX + 4pin AUX 12V (P4) Connector (The main ATX power socket on this board is 24pin but it is 20pin compliant and will still work with the standard 20pin ATX PSU's such as the picoPSU-90)