Intel D945GCLF m-ITX: Atom For The Desktop

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TEST RESULTS

As the motherboard only has a single memory slot, and Windows Vista is a notorious memory hog, we went with XP for our test system. The hardware we used was basic: 1GB of system memory, a notebook hard drive and an 80 Plus SFX power supply.

Test Results: Intel D945GCLF
Test State
CPU Usage
System
Power (AC)
Mean
Peak
Off
N/A
1W
Standby (S3)
N/A
2W
Idle
N/A
27W
Dark Knight
62%
94%
31W
Rush Hour
97%
99%
33W
Coral Reef
63%
73%
33W
Prime95
100%
31W
Prime95 + ATITool
100%
38W
Grey boxes indicate test failure.

The D945GCLF idled at 27W — while this is an impressive number it is only 4W less than the Gigabyte GA-MA74GM-S2 micro-ATX motherboard we reviewed recently. What amazed us more was the power difference when the system was placed under load. The test configuration only used 4W extra when running Prime95 — it's no wonder Intel did not bother equipping the Atom processor with a low power state. Amazingly, the power consumption increased an additional 7W when the IGP was stressed with ATITool. Indeed, the GMA 950 graphics processor and chipset is more power hungry than the processor itself — power consumption during video playback was actually 2W higher than during Prime95's torture test.

As the board is equipped with only a single-core CPU and a dated video subsystem (GMA 950), we weren't able to run our typical video test suite. It became evident after playing our most basic VC-1 clip, "Coral Reef," that the system was completely inadequate for playing VC-1 content. Not only did the audio skip during playback, but there were frequent pauses and massive frame-loss. We tried a variety of different software players and decoders, but none of them were able to make our VC-1 clip resemble anything but a slow, awkward slideshow.

"Rush Hour," our 1080p H.264 test clip was more or less watchable but exhibited frequent slow-downs, producing a dizzying motion blur effect at times. The most demanding clip the system could play flawlessly was a 720p H.264 trailer for "Dark Knight." The D945GCLF, with its basic feature-set, is just not powerful enough to play anything higher than 720p video — not unless it is encoded with a less demanding codec such as DIVX or XVID.

Mini-ITX Comparisons
Test State
Intel
D945GCLF
Intel
D201GLY2
Albatron
KI690-AM2
Mean CPU Usage
System Power
Mean CPU Usage
System Power
Mean CPU Usage
System Power
Idle
N/A
27W
N/A
32W
N/A
32W
Rush Hour
97%
33W
93%
40W
35%
~53W
Coral Reef
63%
33W
95%
40W
50%
~57W
CPU Load
100%
31W
100%
40W
100%
85W
D201GLY2 system tested with Sparkle Power SPI220LE power supply (efficiency is very similar to the Seasonic SS-300SFD used with the D945GCLF & KI690-AM2). NOTE: Grey boxes indicate test failure.

Somewhat surprisingly, the D945GCLF and its 1.6Ghz Atom processor is actually less capable of playing back high definition video that its predecessor, the Intel D201GLY2. The D201GLY2 with its apparently more powerful Celeron 1.2Ghz processor, played the Rush Hour clip smoothly and the Coral Reef clip with less choppiness than the D945GCLF. This is more than just an assumption as benchmarks performed by Tom's Hardware seems to confirm that the Atom is a very slow CPU by modern standards. On the bright side however, power consumption was 5W lower that the D201GLY2 when idle, and 7-9W lower when the system was in heavy use.

Compared to an AM2 mini-ITX board we tested many moons ago, there simply isn't any competition. The Albatron KI690-AM2, even paired with one of AMD's slowest dual core processors, the X2 3800+, shamed both Intel platforms with its smooth and almost effortless playback. By comparison, the D945GCLF's video playback seems like it is hand-cranked by a narcoleptic monkey. Of course, the Albatron is just about impossible to find on the retail market and costs close to$300.



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