Atom 330 Nettop motherboards are perfect for all XP users.

Are you listening, industry? Atom 330 nettop motherboards are the perfect motherboard replacements for EVERY Windows XP machine that I have seen thus far. The dual-core Atom 330 runs circles around even a 2.8GHz single-core Pentium 4, and at about a tenth the power consumption (hence, heat). Not only do these nettop boards provide an extra core (with hyperthreading on each core, so effectively 4 cores), but they can help prolong the life of the existing components, like the PSU and hard drive.

We need more options, though. The current lineup consists of the D945GCLF2/D board from Intel, with an Intel 945 chipset and GMA 950 graphics – the only chip on the board that needs a fan is the power-hungry northbridge. It has 1xDDR2, 2x SATA, 1x ATA100, 1 PCI slot, and a good handful of legacy ports on the back. The other board I just stumbled on is an ECS 945GCD-M board with an Atom 330 (I only look at Atom 330 boards; the 220 is insulting). It solves the slot problem with 2x DDR2 slots, 1 each of PCI-E 16x, PCI-E 1x, and PCI. It also has an additional SATA port.

Both of these boards have a common flaw: for being drop-in replacement boards, they have rather arbitrary requirements and limitations. For example, even though the LPC bus controller (PS/2, serial, parallel) has a floppy controller, there is no header on either of these boards for a floppy drive. Many systems I use these boards to upgrade have a floppy drive, and I end up having to leave a dead floppy drive in the case. Also, there’s a 24-pin + 4-pin 12v connector on these boards. Why? The Atom is super-low-power, and does not need the additional power lines. With a simple adapter, we can get the +12v out of the way (for PSUs without the 4-pin connector), and the 24-pin connector only ever needs a 20-pin plugged in. It’s nice to have the option, but requiring the 4-pin connector is kinda unnecessary. Just take the power from the main 12v bus and spare us the trouble.

All this can be accomplished with a Micro/MiniATX form factor, which I’d really like to see more of on the market. With a MiniATX form factor to work with, it should be possible to cram a lot more into an Atom board than what we’re stuck with now.

You build it, I’ll buy it.