Nettop Motherboard

(actual date Mar 14, 2009)

After my disappointment with the Amazon and the MSI Wind Nettop, I instead went with an Intel D945GCLF2 retail motherboard.

Newegg $86 w/shipping.

There are a bunch of reasons why this board works out to be cheaper than the MSI Wind: it uses standard i/o like ps2 keyboard connectors (i don’t have a spare usb keyboard), it has a parallel IDE connector (i have old, extra dvd burners and hard drives), it uses desktop ddr2 memory instead of so-dimm (i have extra of that, too). And it has a pci slot.

Power / Power Consumption

This mobo requires a standard ATX-style 24 pin (20 is ok too, just leaves the upper 4 pins open) plus a 4-pin 12V plug.

The neatest solution for power would be PicoPSU, a fan-less atx-style dc-dc converter. Mini-box.com sells them, e.g. a 60W bundle (includes the 12V dc “brick”) for $55. But I’m too cheap for that 🙂

In the meantime, I powered it with an extra, old atx power supply I have laying around. One that is already quiet, and relatively low-power.

ULtimately, at 36 Watts idling and 4W standby in windows is pretty good — though markedly higher than the MSI Wind Nettop which used only 24W/<1W.

BIOS

I couldn’t figure out what version I had, so I ran the latest from intel, version 0150 and I chose to do the windows version. I worked fine but was scarey, because the whole thing just goes dark for awhile. (though at some point when it rebooted it said checksum was invalid, and hit a key to continue).

Noise

The reviews were quite good, though a common complaint being the northbridge cooler fan (there is no cpu fan) is too noisy, a good replacement was suggested to be this $4 one: Scythe SY124010L which i probably would have ordered but was out of stock.

As promised, the northbridge cooler is pretty noisey. I tried it at 7 volts, and that was better.The color code for the cooler is white/red/black : tach/+12V/Gnd.

Speedfan sees two fans, the cooler fan jack (the 3 pin that is closer to the cpu; the motherboard says “MCH Fan”) is called Fan1 and the rear fan jack (motherboard says “sys fan”) is Fan0. The cooler fan runs at ~4400 rpm by default.

The bios has fan speed control — but here’s the catch; only “sys fan” is controlled. So I plugged the cooler into the sys fan jack, and set it to “not smart” and 50% PWM. Now it runs at 3500rpm and is pretty quiet (somewhat quieter than at 7 volts). I’ve seen some reports that say their fans won’t run at this speed, but mine seems fine.

There is much talk about the fan, see e.g. on silentpcreview. This guy is selling a Pabst 40mm fan on ebay. In any event it apparently is a standard 40mm x 10mm thick fan. And even 50%PWM or 7V is plenty to keep it cool. This guy did some heat sink mods.

Windows

Getting it booted up from usb flash drive, dvd, or hard drive was no trouble at all.

I loaded up XP Home, SP3 using an IDE DVD-ROM and a SATA notebook hard drive.That went uneventfully. At completion, many features were not working: graphics, audio, ethernet.

I ran the supplied on CD drivers install (which took a long time — 15 minutes?), and as far as i could tell everything worked great.

Windows 7 Beta

I had no luck loading the Windows 7 Beta (build 7000, 32-bit). The first phase; file copy and whatnot runs fine but once it reboots i just get the cool splash-screen and then a BSOD. I guess I could try the 64-bit, but i don’t have it downloaded. This guy says it runs fine.

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