Being a Mini-ITX motherboard, there isn't a huge amount of room to play with. In fact, there is a mere 17x17cm and quite a lot of this is taken up by the CPU socket. Since the board is designed to use AM2+ CPU's, a lot of real estate is taken up by the CPU socket and the retention mechanism designed to hold the heatsink on the CPU. When comparing the 630i ITX and the 8200, the sockets and heatsink clearances are around the same; there is no disadvantage between the two here. Both boards have the same amount of left over PCB to add accessories.
On the left hand edge of the board is where you will find the 24-pin ATX power connector, right behind the two orange DDR2 memory slots. The 4-pin power connector is on the right hand side of the board between the heatsink retention mechanism and in direct line with the DVI-I port.
One thing is very evident about this board before we even get into testing, the memory performance of this board is going to skyrocket compared to the 630i Wi-Fi ITX. Why do we know this with so much certainty? - First off, the 630i NVIDIA chip used on the Intel board is a single channel memory bus only; that's the old crappy 64-bit bus we used to deal with in the beginning of DDR memory. Since AMD has its memory controller on the CPU die, it's not limited to 64-bit and can go to 128-bit as long as there are two or more DDR2 slots. And as you could see above, this board comes up trumps with two DDR2 memory slots.
To feed the CPU with its power requirements, ZOTAC has gone for the tried and true 3 phase power regulation system, which is more than enough for stock operation of any K8 and K10 processor on the market today, including the new Phenom II processors.
Unfortunately, ZOTAC has elected to use Electrolyte capacitors and iron ferrite chokes over the solid state copper caps; a bit disappointing, but we can live with it for this board.
At the heart of the board is NVIDIA's GeForce 8200 single chipset. This incorporates an IGP into a single chip which houses a HT 3.0 link, SATA interface, PCI Express interface as well as all the other goodies we associate with NVIDIA chipsets.
The graphics technology integrated into the GeForce 8200 chipset is a 16 stream DX10 engine running at a 500MHz internal clock speed. Its principal memory for the GPU is UMA or SMA; however you want to word it. It sucks up to 256MB of system memory for the GPU. Unlike Intel's dynamic memory system which only uses 8MB when under 2D applications and then if needed will use a total of 256MB for 3D, NVIDIA assign the full amount to the GPU at boot up, so you lose whatever you set the GPU max memory at straight away. You can have 64, 128 or 256MB allocated to the GPU memory. Thanks to the dual channel memory of the AMD processor, there is more bandwidth to spare for the GPU compared to the Intel offering.
Turning our attention forward, we now take a look at the rear I/O ports. Really, there isn't a huge amount here; there are two video ports for DVI and D-Sub connectivity, but to be honest, a DVI and HDMI arrangement would have been nicer. While you can convert to HDMI from DVI, it's still a pain in the butt having this converter hanging off the back of a small Mini-ITX case.
The audio is the biggest disappointment. While the GeForce 8200 has built in HD Audio, it's limited to 5.1 sound using the three stereo ports at the back and there are no digital audio outputs, so bye bye to bit-streaming any of your DVD's or Blu-rays using S/PDIF. But with that said, ZOTAC has placed a 4-pin header on the board which can be used to connect a S/PDIF PCI bracket to, but that is still a nuisance as it means having to search around to try and buy one and they aren't very common these days. The other way around it is to use the supplied DVI and HDMI convertor and have both the audio and video sent down the one cable, but this requires you own a HDMI amplifier/receiver; something many people don't have.
Last on the list are the expansion slots. Traditionally Mini-ITX boards have been limited to a single PCI slot. While this may have been ok in the past, PCI slots are dinosaurs and it's the same as having ISA slots on Pentium 4 motherboards; they are just out of place.
Thankfully ZOTAC engineers have some sense and include a single PCI-E x1 slot. We would have preferred to have seen a x16 slot since the GeForce 8200 does have provisions for a PCIe 2.0 x16 lane for graphics cards; this slot would allow for a discrete GPU or any other PCI-E device to be installed.
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- Page 1 [Introduction]
- Page 2 [The Box and What's Inside]
- Page 3 [The Motherboard]
- Page 4 [Test System Setup and Memory Performance]
- Page 5 [Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage]
- Page 6 [Benchmarks - Media Playback]
- Page 7 [Benchmarks - Crysis]
- Page 8 [Power Usage]
- Page 9 [Final Thoughts]
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