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2006 – The year of BTX?

When it came to putting the case and motherboard together it was clear that the Gigabyte GA-8I945GMBX and the Thermaltake were not a perfect match.

Before we go into the issues, let’s take a look at the features on offer. The chipset heatsink is passively cooled as the airflow from the CPU cooler will pass over it. However, it did get quite hot after the system had been switched on for longer periods of time.

The GA-8I945GMBX utilises the i945G chipset, which means it has integrated graphics. It’s fully compatible with dual-core processors and can be fitted with four DDR2 memory modules. There’s a single x16 and one x1 PCI Express slot and two PCI slots for expansion. The layout generally follows the BTX reference design with some minor changes. The rear I/O ports are configured very differently compared to those on ATX boards with the keyboard and mouse placed at the bottom, then the USB, FireWire and Network ports follows by the parallel and serial port – and in this case a D-SUB connector – and finally six audio jacks at the top.

The disappointing factor to me was how messy the system ended up being inside the case once everything was fitted in place. The IDE, power and SATA connectors were all located in the path of the airflow towards the rear of the case and the routing of the cables was not optimal. However, an advantage of the CPU cooler shroud is that a lot of the cables can be placed over it, without obstructing the air flow.

From what I’ve seen then, I have to say that there is still some time off before BTX is ready for the DIY PC builder. My initial concerns about it being a manufacturer only solution and that it would be impossible to build your BTX system have been laid to rest. However, it is clearly of vital importance to get a case and a motherboard that follows the BTX specification 100 per cent to allow for proper airflow as if this isn’t the case the components can easily fail due to improper cooling.

Maybe CeBIT 2006 will be when BTX finally makes a real appearance and we will see more than just token products from the various motherboard and case manufacturers, but only time can tell if this will be the case.

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