MoDT Mismatch: AOpen i945GTt-VFA & Silverstone LC-12

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December 5, 2006 by Devon Cooke

Silverstone Lascala LC-12
Mini ITX, Small Form Factor Case
AOpen i945GTt-VFA
Mini ITX motherboard for Core Duo / Core 2 Duo
SilverStone AOpen
Market Price
US$120~150 US$160~320

MoDT is a term coined by AOpen (and later adopted by Intel) soon after they began making desktop motherboards for Pentium M processors. It stands for Mobile on Desktop: Building "desktop" computers out of mobile parts. Today, AOpen claims to be the number one MoDT and Small Form Factor company in the world. The rest of the world doesn't seem to pay the term as much attention as AOpen would like, however.

To a certain extent, MoDT is a holdover from the days when Intel's mobile Pentium M was out-performing its mainstream Pentium 4 processors, which gave enthusiasts considerable incentive to build high end systems from mobile parts (or at least mobile processors). With Core 2 Duo replacing the overheated P4 and its multi-core descendents, that reason for MoDT is now obsolete, but there are other advantages offered by mobile parts that are still relevant, namely their low power requirements and low heat output. Both of these are very important for reducing noise, which explains Silent PC Review's continuing interest in MoDT long after the mainstream sites appear to have forgotten about it.

There are several successful MoDT system on the market. All of Apple's iMacs use mobile parts, and many small form factor systems, such as Shuttle's XPC X100, achieve their small size and high level of integration by building what are essentially laptops into immobile "desktop" enclosures. Then there is the tiny Mac Mini and the series of similar-looking Mini PCs developed by AOpen. There is also a crop of MoDT motherboards, which range from the high-end, CrossFire-supporting i975Xa-YDG to the numerous Socket 754 boards that "unofficially" support AMD's Turion processor, (at least the ones that come in 754 casings, now destined to extinction) and a handful of micro-ATX socket 479 boards from major motherboard brands for Pentium M, Core Duo and even Core 2 Duo mobile processors.

The MoDT acronym is prominently displayed on the box.

AOpen's i945GTt-VFA is arguably more MoDT than any of the motherboards listed above, since it is smaller, more integrated, and supports more mobile parts than just the processor. It uses mobile SO-DIMMs for RAM, sports a single mini-PCI slot, and fits into the tiny 17 x 17 cm mini-ITX (aka Flex-ATX) form factor. It even gets its power laptop-style; instead of accepting an ATX power header, it comes with a 19V, 90W power brick. In fact, the only "desktop" elements left are the PCI Express 1x slot, full size ATA and SATA headers, and the desktop-sized backplate.

SilverStone's Mini-ITX LC-12 case is just the thing for an MoDT system.

To go with the i945GTt-VFA, Silverstone's Mini-ITX LC-12 case is about the closest thing to a "mobile" enclosure we're likely to see. It's roughly the height and width of a pair of optical drives stacked on top of each other and a little under twice as long, or about half the size of the already tiny Shuttle Zen SFF system.

Because the majority of Mini-ITX boards use VIA's low power EPIA processors, the LC-12 is designed with low power in mind. There are no stock fans, and no place to mount them even if there were. A small, fanless DC-DC converter powered by a 12V, 60W power brick supplies power to the internal components, and, while Silverstone does offer a 120W brick for those who need it, the lack of a system fan is likely to make such a power-hungry system unviable.

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