Beyond Atom: Exploring Performance ITX Solutions
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.
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.