Beyond Atom: Exploring Performance ITX Solutions

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Zotac GF9300-D-E motherboard

Zotac is not new to the ITX scene. They have offered multiple mini-ITX solutions for both Intel and AMD processors for some time. While Zotac has ITX offerings for both the blue and green camps, all of their boards are based on NVIDIA chipsets including ION based boards like the one we recently evaluated. Zotac's ITX offerings currently cover the entire price spectrum from value-priced sub-$100 models based on the NVIDIA nForce 610 chipset to high-end products and everything in between.

The board we chose for the purposes of our look at performance ITX is Zotac's flagship mini-ITX board, the GeForce 9300-ITX WiFi (AKA. GF9300-D-E). Now here is an ITX motherboard that gamers can get used to. Just like the Intel DG41MJ, the Zotac packs all of the usual integrated components you'd need, but instead of the conventional PCI slot, this badboy is packing a PCI-E x16 slot. Provided your chassis supports full-size expansion cards, like the Silverstone SG05, you can stick a bonafide discrete graphics card in your little ITX box for a screaming SFF gaming setup.

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Zotac GF9300-D-E Motherboard
Specifications & Features
Processor and Chipset
Based on NVIDIA GeForce 9300 chipset
Supports Core 2 Processors

2 x DIMM (Max. 8 GB combined)
Supports DDR2 667/800 MHz
Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory
Dual channel memory architecture
Expansion Slots
1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 slot
2 x SATA 3Gb/s ports
1 x eSATA 3Gb/s port
Integrated audio by HDA (Azalia)
8-channel audio with jack sensing

Integrated Gigabit LAN
Supports 10Mb/s, 100Mb/s and 1000Mb/s
Internal IO
ATX 24-pin power connector
ATX 4-pin 12V CPU power connector
2 x FAN connectors
1 x Front panel audio connector
1 x Front panel header
1 x Chassis intrusion switch connector
3 x USB 2.0 headers
2 x Serial ATA II connectors
1 x Serial port connector

Back Panel I/O
6 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
1 x eSATA port
1 x PS/2 Keyboard
1 x S/PDIF Out Coaxial
1 x S/PDIF Out Optical
1 x RJ45 LAN jacks
8 -Channel Audio I/O

2 x SATA data cables
1 x SATA power cable
1 x VGA-out port
1 x DVI-out port
1 x HDMI-out port
1 x I/O shield
1 x Wifi daughter card
1 x Wifi antenna
Mini-ITX Form Factor
6.7 inch x 6.7 inch (17.02 cm x 17.02 cm)

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If the Intel DG41MJ represents a typical performance ITX setup, then the Zotac GF9300-D-E represents the full-feature gaming oriented option. The PCI-E x16 slot lends a lot of flexibility, not only will you be able to use any modern video card but it's also compatible with PCI-E x1 and x4 cards. This allows you to use just about any type of expansion card.

Even without a discrete card, the integrated GeForce 9300 chip can handle lite gaming and is significantly more useful in that respect than the X4500 found on the DG41MJ, as we found out in our initial look at the GeForce 9300/9400. The GeForce 9300 chipset also supports Hybrid SLI, allowing you to link a discrete NVIDIA-based video card with the onboard GF9300.

The Zotac GF9300-D-E comes with a bigger bundle than the DG41MJ. Most notably, the bundle includes a WiFi daughter card which will enable 802.11b/g support. This is an excellent addition which will come in handy in just about any type of build.

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