The Next Generation of Cool: AOpen's 37 Watt Pentium M Desktop PC

More Performance, Little Added Value

For most typical users, the upgraded chipset won't really be of much value. Corporate clients, for example, are only rarely interested in new features, and often prefer cheaper, pared-down versions of chipsets. To them, the cost/benefit ratio is usually the deciding factor. Instead, it is the home users, the multimedia users and the enthusiasts that are drawn to the new features.

Also, Intel has found it hard to showcase the perceived benefit of a well-equipped system based on newer platforms. Of course, no one is disputing that a Pentium 4 660 running at 3.6 GHz with DDR2 memory and a PCI Express graphics card packs more punch than a socket 478 Pentium 4 3.4 GHz with DDR400 memory and AGP. However, the increased performance comes at a hefty price, namely a 30% increase in the system's power consumption.

The lack of applications that would justify the development detailed above is beginning to haunt Intel. Not too long ago, hardware makers could rely on bleeding-edge games to ensure an adequately brief upgrade cycle. However, recent games have increasingly called for more potent graphics cards rather than more feature-rich platforms or faster processors.

It is only natural that as a result, some companies are beginning to rethink the standards that should define a "sensible" PC. Since the majority of users aren't fixated on getting the highest performance, the trend increasingly points to more energy efficient and, consequently, quieter components. A well designed, smart system may be more attractive to the average Joe than one that offers a little more performance at the cost of efficiency.

Intrigued by the ATX and microATX motherboards that AOpen makes based on the energy-efficient Pentium M processor, we decided to build a desktop system based on the i915GMm-HFS (microATX) board. This system has no trouble keeping up with current computers, yet offers significant advantages. For example, it forms the basis for a low-noise system, and draws a mere 37 watts when idle - about a third of what a typical P4 system uses.

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