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

Cases|Damping | CPUs|Motherboards
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INTEGRATED POWER

So far, the i945GTt-VFA stands apart mostly because of its size and the components it uses. And, while these are interesting, they are not what interests us most about this board. In fact, our interest was piqued less by this board's computational ability, than by the way it is powered: A 19V DC power brick.

The brick, which is fanless and eliminates the need for an external power supply, is taken directly from the laptop market, right down to its unusual 19V output voltage. It's manufactured by Delta, the world's largest power supply maker, and is rated for 90W. We are told that the motherboard itself can handle up to 180W, which should provide plenty of overhead for hot conditions that might provoke a failure.

Because the board is not compatible with conventional ATX12V power supplies, power for external peripherals such as drives must be supplied by the board itself. This is done via a special adapter that plugs into a Molex header near the center of the motherboard. The adapter supplies two Molex connections — enough for one hard drive and one optical drive. A further adapter allows one of them to be a SATA drive, but no other connections are provided, so the board is essentially limited to two drives. And, given that the power must be routed through the motherboard itself, it's probably best not to tempt fate by using additional adapters to hook up any more.


This 19V power brick is the most "mobile" characteristic of the board.

So it uses a power brick, you might say. So what? Why get excited over it when a full sized power supply can support more devices and supply more watts? If you have to ask those questions, you've probably missed the point of MoDT. The power brick offers several advantages over a traditional power supply:

  • It's much, much smaller.
  • It's probably more efficient, as fewer intermediate conversion steps are needed to obtain working voltages for the various chips on the board.
  • It's quieter, as it eliminates the need for a fan in the power supply.
  • It doesn't leave unused cables dangling all over the interior of the case.

CPU COOLING

Because mobile processors do not come with heatsinks, AOpen has included a small heatsink of their own. This is fortunate, as the small dimensions of the mini-ITX form factor do not work well with the massive aftermarket heatsinks that dominate the market. The mounting holes for the heatsink are not compatible with any current mounting systems, so we hope that AOpen's heatsink is up to the task.

The heatsink appears to be the same one used on some of AOpen's earlier MoDT boards, notably the i915Ga-HFS and later versions of the i915GMm-HFS. While hardly a high-performance part, it has been adequate to cool our Pentium M processors in the past, and we don't foresee any problems this time around.


The heatsink is simple extruded aluminum, and is not large.

The fan is a low profile 50mm model from Young Lin Tech Co. (no web site available). It has a clear blue plastic frame, is reasonably quiet, but is unreasonably buzzy. It's not our first choice for a low-noise cooler, but it's livable enough.


Fan courtesy of Young Lin Tech Co., model DEB501012L.

BIOS

The BIOS is about what you'd expect for a midrange aftermarket board. There are plenty of on-off switches for the various features, and basic hardware monitoring is included. However, overclocking is limited to adjusting the FSB between 166 and 190 MHz. Adjusting the CPU clock or multiplier downwards is not supported, and neither are any voltage tweaks — up or down.


Limited FSB overclocking, under the misleading title of "CPU Clock".

Fan control is included but is almost as limited as overclocking. The CPU "Smart Fan" option can be enabled or disabled, but no temperature thresholds can be set, and the fan curve cannot be tweaked. That's not necessarily a bad thing; so long as the fan controller is indeed "smart" enough not to ramp up until absolutely necessary. We'll find out more when we get to the actual tests.


Fan control is limited to "on" and "off".



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