Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Intel Atom 230 on the D945GCLF motherboard.

Ok first of I actually decided to get a complete system with the Atom 230, so I got mine from Mika here for RM750.


Atom 230

Intel D945GCFL

1GB DDR2 667Mhz Apogee

Seagate 250GB SATA


ITX casing

My observations when using the system:

Web browsing - Seems to have high spiking of CPU resource (65%) on FLASH heavy sites.

Video watching - Can watch full 720p vids. Stutters on 1080p vids.

Gaming - Test in Skygate with Eric, Cabal and Warcraft 3. Cabal lagged a bit on low detail in window mode. Warcraft lagged a bit in the beginning of DOTA with 9 AI on 800x600 res with full details but after 20-30 seconds game played smoothly after AI script all loaded.

My thoughts:

On the looks the heatsink/fan on the chipset is really big and the nosiest thing on the board. On the other hand the CPU heatsink is puny as hell. Luckily, the CPU temps (hyperthreading so there are '2' cores) on 61C on full load.

The I/O on the back are nothing to scream about but I heard reviewers complain that the 2 USB ports nearest to the VGA port will have problems housing drives and such. Well, those ports are for the mouse and keyboard. So they will have no problem getting in. For other USB devices use the front ports (through the casing) or the other 2 ports which have tons of space for fat flash drives.

Well what can I say? When buying a CPU you take a look at benchmarks then decide if the CPU has enough muster for the price you want to pay. Its pretty two dimensional most of the time like a painting. But when you came across a CPU like the Atom or the VIA nano or even the lesser known AMD Geode you can't approach challenge at the same angle. Unlike the mainstream CPUs which you can view like painted works of art, the ultra low power CPUs have to be viewed like sculptures. Ugly at certain angles, intriguing on others and maybe even strangely beautiful with the right lighting.

So what is the Atom really good for? At first I wanted to say ultra low power BT server and websurfer but on load the power inefficient G945 chipset sucks a lot of power from what I heard. Frankly, if I had a Kill-A-Watt metre or similar (anyone know where I can get one in Malaysia  please, please tell me), I can't be sure but on my setup it should drink about 40W-55W on load.

So what should you do? If you were intending to replace your old P3 or p4 BT server or firewall then I'll tell that the Atom system is yes more energy efficient than that bag of bones.

If you want a light weight web surfer that will play YouTube (or You Tu Be as the Taiwanese call it) videos and kiddie games (like Garden Defense) without worry little Charlie leaves the damn PC on all night then this is for you.

Need a NAS server or even just a network server to run 24/7 then slap this puppy in a cold dark space and it will be happy.

Heck, if you need even a cheap media centre then the Atom could probably handle it too as long as you don't let the HD bug get to your head and you decide that it is a must to watch HD-DVDs, Blu-Ray DVDs or any 1080p content on it.

What you don't want the Atom for is basically to be you primary box that you will spend serious time on. This is not a system for MMORPG although I haven't tried it with WOW yet. This is not your HTPC. This is not your beancounter crunchmaster. And if you haven't got it by now, this will never, ever be your gaming system.

If you want it to be more energy efficient, well my AMD 3000+ Venice core with the same specs on 60% load will run at 108W according to the PSU calculator site so this guy saves me a lot of power still on the long run.

If you still need it to be more energy efficiency wait for better chipsets from Intel or AMD. Otherwise, what you see is what you get. Ugly little bugger to most or a charming little duckling to some.

Video notes:

Although it is not clear you can see the task manager on the left with hyperthreading on. On 720p CPU resources were hovering around 40%-65% sometimes spiking to 80%. On 1080p you 80%-100%. On the Macross Frontier vid I time shifted around a bit to see if there was any spiking which was none really. Monitor res was set at 1680x1050.

I didn't record the game testing as I was at Skygate and didn't have my cam with me.

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