The core design is really very similar to the Intel D945GCLF mini-ITX Atom motherboard
, although Gigabyte has put its personal touch to the colour scheme as usual. According to the Intel website
the kit costs Gigabyte just $45 in 1,000 unit quantities, which certainly isn't much at all.
Included is a single DDR2 memory slot in which a 2GB module will fit - the board officially supports up to 533MHz DDR2 at maximum, but anything faster will simply scale back to the slower speed accordingly. We found playing with the timings that Gigabyte offers in the BIOS didn't do much to improve the performance as the northbridge isn't at all powerful.
You'll instantly notice that the large heatsink has a fan on it - that's the northbridge, not
the CPU! The Atom 230 has an almost insignificant heatsink, as does the southbridge, but it's unsurprising because the 230D has a TDP of 4W (compared to 2.5W for the N230), while the ICH7 southbridge has a TDP of 3W (the mobile variant uses 1.5W) and the 945GC northbridge is rated to a hefty 22.2W. This brings the whole system to a grand total of 29.2W of power before memory, hard drive and everything else is taken into consideration.
The heatsink can
cope without a fan, but it's included anyway for small, hot environments you can easily imagine this board existing in. If you do use a small case, we would certainly advise finding a solution to replace it though because it's as whiny as it looks.
Feature wise we're pretty limited but by no means any worse off than many VIA EPIA boards - there are just a pair of SATA ports, a single IDE socket and a PCI slot. The Atom platform does not cater for PCI-Express yet (and may never do), so any graphical enhancement you want will have to be on this limited interface.
Click to enlarge
The audio is a basic six-channel sound and the Ethernet is an older school Fast 10/100Mbit rather than Gigabit - a disappointment to those looking to use this as a base for a NAS box.
On the whole then, the layout is certainly not that bad - there are no major conflicts but there's also not much you can do to optimise the board for mini-ITX cases since they are not exactly uniform in design (at least compared to ATX). It's therefore difficult to ascertain if the components are placed badly or not.