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

Cases|Damping | CPUs|Motherboards
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The US$300 typical price of the i945GTt-VFA is steep, especially given that the very cheapest Core Duo processors start at ~US$150 — if you can find them at all. (Editor's Note: At time of article posting, however, Amazon is offering the board at $157.) That said, there's more than just a motherboard here. You also get a power supply and a heatsink for your money, which would otherwise need to be purchased separately. Toss in the high level of integration and the exotic form factor, and it doesn't seem like that bad a deal after all.

All the usual accessories, plus component video out, a heatsink, and a power brick.

SPECIFICATIONS: AOpen i945GTt-VFA (from AOpen's web site)
- Intel Core 2 Duo/Core Duo/Core Solo CPU (Merom/Yonah)
- Socket 479
- 667MHz
- Intel 945GT
- Intel ICH7MDH
Super I/O
Winbond (W83627EHF)
Clock Generator
Main Memory
- Dual Channel Mode
- Support : SO-DIMM DDRII 667/533/400
- SO-DIMM DDRII 667/533/400 x 2
- 128/256/512MB & 1GB x 2
- Max Memory : 2GB
Integrated VGA Engine in chipset
- Integrated ATA100 and Serial ATA Controller
- Max Disk : 144,000,000GB [by 48 bits LBA Spec.]
Intel Gigabit PCI Express LAN chip
Azalia 7.1 channel codec on-board (ALC882D)
- Integrated in chipset
- USB2.0 x 8
IEEE 1394
Agere 1394 Control Chip (FW3226-100)
- PCI Express (PCIe x1) x 1
- Mini PCI x 1
Storage &
Back Panel I/O
- Adapter Connector x 1
- IDE Channel : ATA100 x 1
- Serial ATA Channel x 2
- PS/2 Keyboard x 1
- PS/2 Mouse x 1
- DVI Connector x 1
- Standard Video x 1
- 1394 Port x 1
- LAN Port x 1
- USB Port x 4
- COM Port x 1
- Line_In x 1
- MIC_In x 1
- Speaker_Out x 1
- Center/Subwoofer x 1
- Rear Surround x 1
- Side Surround x 1
- 4-pin 12V Connector x 1
- CPU FAN x 1
- System FAN x 1
- Front Panel x 1
- USB Port x 2
- COM Port x 1
- COM2 x 1
- IEEE 1394 x 1
- S/PDIF x 1
- CD_IN x 1
Award PnP 4Mb Flash ROM BIOS
Form Factor
Flex ATX (mini ITX)
Board Size
170 mm x 170 mm
Software & Utilities
- Acrobat Reader
- AOconfig utility
- EzInstall utility
- EzSkin utility
- EzWinFlash utility
- WinDMI utility
- Online eBook Manual
- Adapter
- Back Panel I/O Shield
- Easy Installation Guide
- Enhanced Full Pictured Manual
- 80-wire IDE cable
- Serial ATA cable
- Serial ATA Power cable
- CPU Cooler x 1
- CPU Retention Module x 1

The i945GTt-VFA may be small, but it's based on a desktop chipset (945GT Express), so there are some desktop features here, especially on the A/V side of things. 7.1 surround sound is fully supported, as is TV output via all three common connections (component, S-Video, and composite). With special cables and a little software tweaking, it should even be possible to get HDMI output via the DVI port and S/PDIF output via one of the internal headers. Other features that don't often show up on mobile products include a serial port, firewire, and a PCI Express 1x slot.

All this adds up to a package that is well suited to almost any non-3D application. Pretty much the only thing missing is a way of upgrading Intel's integrated graphics. Other expansion possibilities are also a bit limited, but that is to be expected with the size of the board. Drives are limited to two SATA and two IDE channels, and RAM to two 1 GB sticks.

Believe it or not, AOpen has packed a fully-featured desktop chipset onto this board.

Output ports are plentiful, including a DVI-I socket.

At this point, it is worth mentioning a rather boneheaded "bug" in the feature set. AOpen advertises RAID support, as would be expected on any board that uses Intel's ICH7 series northbridge. And, if you were willing to forego an optical drive, you might just be able to power a pair of drives for RAID 0 or RAID 1. However, as is standard for RAID systems, the RAID driver for Windows is shipped on a floppy diskette so that it can be installed during Windows setup. Now, look closely as the feature list, and see if you can spot a floppy header. There isn't one. While we can think of a few workarounds, none of them is simple, and some involve purchasing extra parts. For practical purposes, this board does not support RAID in any usable way.

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