CeBIT 2006: Motherboards

A brief look at some of the new motherboard technologies being shown at CeBIT, including AMD's new Socket AM2 and new Mobile on Desktop products.

Wandering around CeBit, I have far from exhausted motherboard news but I saw a couple of boards that I felt should be talked about.

My first stop was Epox, where I noticed a number of Pentium M motherboards. This is a rising occurrence with companies like ECS also showing these off. In Epox’s case, all of these had been labelled as LGA775 boards, but as you can clearly see for yourself, it’s not.

Here is another shot of it in action, with the bundled heatsink. It looks to be a good desktop board for making quiet machines. A short talk later, I find that Epox’s division Ipox makes a lot more motherboards like this, aimed at making integrated machines and media centres. A flick through the catalogue showed some interesting products that will probably never be seen in the retail channel.

Next stop was Aopen where there was plenty to be seen. The previous Pentium M motherboards have been a big success, so they have decided to shift their focus to concentrate on this area, dubbed MODT – Mobile on Desktop Technology. I think this is a brave move, but I like where they are going.

To complement their current line up, 3 new Pentium M motherboards are to be launched. First is a Mini-ITX board, which despite getting me excited as it only requires a 12V input to work, it seems is unlikely to be launched in the UK. Secondly is a Micro-ATX 945 based motherboard, similar to the Epox above.

But lastly and most interestingly, is their new ATX motherboard. This is based on the 975 chipset and is fully featured, aimed at the enthusiast. As you can see above, they are the first manufacturer I’ve seen to implement external SATA correctly, with power as well as data being externally accessible.

But what is most interesting about this board, is not only will it support CrossFire, it will unofficially support SLI. This got me really excited, as a Core Duo, Multi-GPU set up is definitely my dream machine right now.

However, upon talking to Nvidia it seems they are aware that the current 81.98 drivers support this feature, but it will unfortunately be removed in a future driver release.

Walking around, a number of motherboard manufacturers were showing of new AM2 based boards. None of these looked like anything special and I may as well have been staring at a 939 board. We’ll wait until we get some in to labs before we talk about this. The board above is made by DFI, but is a purely an example to see what the new socket looks like. Naturally it supports DDR-II 800MHz. Notable is the use of four holes instead of two for CPU mounting. Although the plastic bracket will probably end up quite similar, this does make it a lot easier for mounting water coolers.

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