Given all its potential, the micro ATX Zotac GeForce 9300 failed to live up to something that could rival Nvidia's own GeForce 8200 MCP or AMD's 780G chipset. The major difference being between the GeForce 9300 and the later two is support for Intel CPUs versus AMD - and naturally given the clock-to-clock performance difference in favour of Intel, we want an E5200 instead of 4850e, please.
Mini-ITX has seen a re-enlightenment in the last year, from its early introduction by VIA for use with its CPUs - these tiny platforms were often obscenely expensive and limited in features and power. We've hit a time where a tiny mini-ITX board can offer everything a full size system can, and for something the size of a GameCube or Dreamcast (although, not quite Wii yet), we can have a full-HD capable home theatre PC.
Five months after our original GeForce 9300 chipset review, we're looking at a new platform and also revisiting this awesome little HTPC chipset to see if Zotac has truly hit the nail on the head with a bundle no one else has matched to date.
Box and Bits
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A couple of SATA cables, the metal rear I/O plate and the usual driver CDs and manuals are all in the kit. The board is limited to just a couple of SATA connectors anyway despite the chipset supporting six and there's no extra PCI brackets for USB unfortunately. However, mini-ITX cases are far from "standard" compared to ATX so they often have their own solutions.
The 802.11g WiFi kit is probably the best addition we've seen to date on a mini-ITX or any small form factor board. Asus used to include it on most of its Deluxe boards many moons ago and occasionally there's still the odd board with 802.11n wireless that crops up, but none are smaller than ATX in size. The 802.11g module on the Zotac might not be cutting edge, but it's enough bandwidth to stream HD content (signal strength limiting). The biggest benefit though is that it wastes no USB ports on the rear I/O and the extra option of connectivity is not at the expense of the PCI-Express slot either. Oh, and it's low profile - it's a win-win-win.
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Zotac has it so that it can simply be screwed into place and plugged into one of the many USB 2.0 pin-outs on board. It takes all of two minutes to fit securely and works natively in Windows Vista. Fantastic: not a single complaint from us.