It comes as no surprise that the GeForce 9300-ITX WiFi draws less power when playing back Blu-ray movies. Clearly with the significantly higher CPU load during this task, Intel's G45 motherboard turned out to be a fairly inefficient in comparison for this test.
Of course, the extra power consumption can only mean more heat your system will have to deal with, in the case of Blu-ray playback this was 17W which isn't a vast amount but why opt for something that does the same thing but consumes more power?
Clearly if you're main use for an ITX motherboard is movie playback, then there is only one option here, especially if your film collection includes Blu-ray movies.
Zotac GeForce 9300-ITX WiFi
Intel Intel DG45FC
Watts (lower is better)
Conclusions and Value
Well featured mini-ITX motherboards have until recently been quite expensive. LGA775 examples were a clear case in point but the Zotac GeForce 9300-ITX WiFi retails for a little over £120, which is a damn sight more expensive than the micro-ATX 9300 that retails for just £85
. Even if we just compare to the Intel DG45FC, the Intel board is £20 cheaper
but it doesn't feature WiFi and the better basic hardware.
While it's slower than the Intel DG45FC in many of the synthetic benchmarks (memory read and latency tests in particular) it more than makes up for this in video playback, especially Blu-ray where it leaves the Intel DG45FC in its dust as far as CPU usage goes. The inclusion of on-board WiFi and a full 16x PCI-E 2.0 slot are huge bonuses too and coupled with a sufficient PSU, could easily mean a compact gaming machine is on the cards as well. Nothing else on the market matches this.
The only real downside, apart from mediocre benchmark scores is the Realtek ALC662 on-board audio which did leave a lot to be desired. However it would be possible to use the 16x PCI-E slot for a separate PCI-E sound card which would solve the issue at a stroke and is something you should definitely consider if your looking at hooking the Zotac GeForce 9300-ITX WiFi up to powerful speaker systems.
We've been very impressed by the Zotac GeForce 9300-ITX WiFi. As an all-in-one package, it's nearly unbeatable for the price and coupled with a 45nm Core 2 Duo, it has massive potential which is expanded even further by the addition of a PCI-E 16x slot. There's clearly the option for far more power to be on tap than with VIA embedded CPU mini-ITX motherboards which is exactly what HTPC users will be looking for, especially with Windows Vista and HD playback being things that one has to take into account these days.
However, mini-ITX boards are still a niche market. Micro-ATX still rules the roost here and with good reason - many HTPC cases are compatible with both formats and the latter certainly has more feature packed motherboards due to their larger size. But there it is - the 'S' word. Size is what mini-ITX has to its advantage and if this is a premium, which it is in many situations, then the Zotac GeForce 9300-ITX WiFi wins hands down as an incredibly feature packed product - even more so than than the J&W Minix 780G which we recognised as one of our innovations of the year last year.
There are plenty of dedicated mini-ITX cases around too, many of which are smaller than your typical Shuttle PC and with motherboards like the Zotac GeForce 9300-ITX WiFi now making an appearance, we feel mini-ITX might just be about to make a big comeback.