AOpen's Core Duo Flagship i975Xa-YDG motherboard

CPUs|Motherboards
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June 20, 2006 by Mike Chin

Product
AOpen i975Xa-YDG motherboard
Manufacturer
Street Price
US$280~340

Regular SPCR visitors know that this is not the first time an AOpen i975Xa-YDG motherboard or an Intel Core Duo T2600 processor have been featured in one of our articles. They were featured in our April Desktop CPU Power Survey, which examined the best power efficiency achievable with then current processors from AMD and Intel. You may recall that the T2600 proved to be very efficient, as expected of this 31W TDP processor. The AOpen i975Xa-YDG board used for that article was a pre-production lab sample; we promised to get hold of a production sample for a proper review of a product you can actually buy.

The Core Duo T2600 was the fastest of the Intel dual-core processors with the Yonah core, but nothing in the computer world holds the title of "fastest" for long — a 200MHz speedier T2700 is now available, and there's little reason to think it will retain the speed title for long either. The Yonah Core Duo is descended from the Pentium M, and inherits that mobile processor's excellent power efficiency. The Pentium M was intended originally to be used exclusively in mobile platforms.

Industrial board makers first began using it in non-mobile specialized applications with micro-ATX and mini-ITX boards. Then AOpen and DFI introduced consumer-friendly desktop 479 socket boards a little over a year ago, which signaled the beginning of MoDT — mobile components on desktop platforms — now a slogan used by AOpen, the visible leader in this field. Intel embraced this practice with the Core Duo / Solo, positioning it from the start as a mobile and a desktop part. It is a component of Intel's Viiv home multimedia centers as well as the Centrino mobile platform. It also powers Apple's new 17" and 20" LCD iMacs; we reviewed one recently and found it to be a model of efficiency and low noise.

AOpen has many MoDT products for Core Duo / Solo on the market: Several motherboards with Intel 945 chipsets in micro-ATX and mini-ITX formats, as well as SFF barebones (for Pentium M), the (in?)famous MiniPC and its descendant, and complete HTPC sets. The AOpen i975Xa-YDG is their most ambitious MoDT motherboard, introduced in March 2006 with a great deal of fanfare.

click her for a larger view
It's packed with features; click on photo for larger view.

At AOpen's global web site today, you will find no fewer than 10 press releases pertaining to the board. The headlines are worth reproducing here to give you an idea of their positioning of this product:

  • The unstoppable force from AOpen i975Xa-YDG
  • Five leading technologies of AOpen COO 975X
  • Digital entertainment motherboard - AOpen i975Xa-YDG
  • AOpen i975Xa-YDG, the gamers' overclocking motherboard
  • AOpen took 55% market share of Intel 975 chipset
  • Best overclocking motherboard-AOpen i975Xa-YDG
  • Why AOpen i975Xa-YDG becomes so popular?
  • The most wanted motherboard in Japan - AOpen i975Xa-YDG
  • AOpen i975Xa-YDG offers a significant set of features and impressive performance”- AnandTech
  • The motherboard you got to know - AOpen i975xa-YDG
  • The flagship MoDT (Mobile on DeskTop) AOpen i975Xa-YDG motherboard powered by the Intel Core Duo CPU has been born

It's evident that the product has already achieved a degree of success in the marketplace. In truth, it is a very unusual motherboard in many ways. The feature highlights below below explains why.

Feature Highlights of the AOpen i975Xa-YDG (from the AOpen web site)

FEATURE & BRIEF OUR COMMENT
Intel i975X chipset As far as we know, it is the only Core Duo / Solo motherboard to utilize i975X, Intel's top desktop chipset for Pentium 4 and Pentium D 775 socket processors. AOpen adapted this chipset for the Core Duo / Solo, presumably to take advantage of some of its high performance features.

ATI Crossfire Dual PCI Express x16 Video Card support
PCI Express x16 graphics delivers up to 8GB/s per direction for 3.5 times more bandwidth than AGP8X at 2.1GB/s. This motherboard has 2 PCI Express x16 graphic slot and can support dual graphic card under ATI Crossfire mode.

In some ways, this is an odd feature for a Core Duo motherboard. A primary reason for the existence of the Core Duo / Solo is high performance and high efficiency, with low power consumption. Currently, graphics cards are much more power hungry than any Core Duo processor. In fact, the current top vidcards from ATI and nVidia exceed 100W in power demand at full load. The option to allow two such cards means that you could conceivably have >200W flowing through the graphics cards while the CPU calls for just <35W. So is this board aimed at the extreme gamer who wishes to assuage his guilty green conscience by keeping at least the CPU power draw low while still maintaining the highest possible frame rates and visual gameplay quality with a pair of power-guzzling vidcards?
External Hot Plug Serial ATA II
Serial ATA II has the fastest transmission speed for external storage interface. The Hot Plug function allows quick access to stored data in Windows without rebooting.
eSATA has been offered on other boards we've examined before, but this is the first time we've seen it implemented like this. Rather than an offical eSATA socket, this is a standard internal SATA and power connector, and an integrated cable that provides power and data connection to a bare drive. This is a bit of an odd feature: How many users will simply use a bare drive outside the case?
IR Remote Control and Receiver
A multifunction IR Remote Control for system power on/off, DVD and MP3 functions, and even overclocking with the press of a button.
Certainly a nice addition for a HTPC setup, especially if it provides enough functionality to obviate the need for an MCE remote. Unusually, the remote actually has overclocking controls!
Power Master
A hardware controller to detect your CPU actual loading and give your system the real time performance.
A feature unique to AOpen, first seen in their i915Ga-PLF, this hardware controller provides dynamic clock and voltage adjustments independent of similar functions (EIST) built within the CPU.


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