Four of the chips have migrated to the back of the board in the area of the CPU socket which illustrates how little space there is to spare. The upshot is that you cannot use a CPU cooler that has a back plate so we had to switch from our usual Zalman cooler to a regular Intel CPU cooler. This is going to be a serious issue for a lot of potential customers.
It took a number of attempts to install Windows Vista on the DG45FC as the motherboard was flaky when it came to restarts. A BIOS update from version 0075 to 0077 didn’t help which was no great surprise as the release notes only referred to fixing an issue with PCI audio cards. Once Windows was installed we found that 3DMark06 and PCMark05 performance was pretty much identical to the Micro ATX DG45ID which is what we hoped to see. Compared to other Mini-ITX systems the DG45FC has blazing performance, provided you use a decent CPU, and the GMA X4500HD graphics core is easily capable of decoding Blu-ray movies for playback but this brings us to a fundamental question; why would anyone build a Mini-ITX PC?
In recent times the easy answer is that you want to build a Media Centre PC that is very small and quiet but these days Blu-ray and High Definition are touted as key requirements and this is where your reviewer is confused. The vast majority of High Def content comes from Sky or Virgin, in which case you need the appropriate subscription and decoder box, and Blu-ray. You can certainly build a Blu-ray player around the Intel DG45FC but you’ll have to spend £70 on a BD-Rom drive, £70 for an OEM copy of Windows Vista and £60 for Blu-ray DVD software which makes it hard to argue against a domestic Blu-ray player for £200 or a Play Station 3 for £300. Of course, if you have a hard drive chock-full of 1080p movies you may choose to ignore that line of thinking.
On the other hand you may simply wish to build a very small PC in which case Mini-ITX may well look more appealing than Micro-ATX. There’s no denying that the PC case that houses the DG45FC can be very small but you still need the power supply, DVD drive and hard drive as well as a morsel of air circulation for cooling. The resulting PC won’t be much smaller than a Micro ATX system built around a DG45ID motherboard and it won’t have anything like the options for upgrades and modifications.
There’s one market where that could be very appealing if you’re building very small client PCs for your office and you want to treat the finished PCs as sealed units that take up the minimum of space yet you still want them to have enough power to do a useful day’s work. If that’s your plan then you’ll doubtless be interested in the Remote Wake Technology and Intel Management Engine for remote administration in which case we think you’re onto a winner but please wait for Intel to issue a new BIOS that fixes the dodgy restart.
Intel has condensed a G45 motherboard into the tiny Mini-ITX form factor. The result is a board that looks really cute but still manages to deliver desktop performance. We’re not sure it offers much to the average consumer that a more traditional MODT mini-itx platform couldn’t deliver but the price is good and so is the feature list.