Tiny motherboards part II

We take a closer look at Jetway and J&W’s offerings

The first part of our tiny motherboards roundup had some unusual boards in it, but the second part won’t disappoint as it contains some gems of its own. With no further ado, let’s get on with it.

First up we have Jetway which is established in the IPC market more than the desktop PC market at the moment, although the company manufactures a wide range of desktop consumer motherboards as well. In fact, Jetway makes motherboards for a wide range of companies, including some of J&W’s products.

For starters we have a rather unusual board in terms of size which is called the MA3-740GSM and features the AMD 740G chipset. It measures 250x171mm which makes it bigger than a mini-ITX board, but not quite the size of a DTX board. The main advantage it has over mini-ITX is that it has two expansion slots, one x16 PCI Express slot and one PCI slot. It supports AM3 processors and has a pair of DDR3 memory slots. The onboard graphics might not be overly powerful, but at least Jetway has kitted out the board with a DVI port, something you rarely get on budget friendly IGP boards.

Next up we have a pair of Atom boards which, on the surface, look identical and in fact, both boards have the same features. The two models are the NC98-510-LF and the NC98-525-LF. Common features include ION 2 graphics, two DDR2 memory slots, an HDMI and DVI port, four SATA ports and a mini PCI Express connector. The NC98-510-LF features a 1.66GHz Atom D510 processor, while the NC98-525-LF comes with the faster 1.8GHz Atom D525. For some reason the two boards have different cooling solutions with the Atom D525 having a beefier heatsink.

The last board from Jetway is based on the Intel H55 chipset and is called the NC97-LF. This board is quite competitive in terms of features as it has a PCI Express x16 slot, two DDR3 DIMM slots, four SATA ports, an eSATA port, a DVI and HDMI port as well as optical and coaxial S/PDIF out. Jetway is targeting this board to the IPC market, but hopefully the price will be low enough for this to be a consumer alternative as well.

J&W also had a H55 board on its stand called the Minix H55HD and we have to apologize for the quality of the picture of this board, but J&W had for some silly reason decided to cover all its boards with a sheet of acrylic making it very difficult to take pictures of them. This board offers a similar feature set to the Jetway board with a x16 PCI Express slot, two DDR3 DIMM slots, four SATA ports, a DVI and HDMI port, an eSATA port and an optical S/PDIF.

Another board in the Minix series, the 890GX-USB3 was also on display which is as far as we know the first mini-ITX 890GX based motherboard ever to be made. As the name suggests, this board has a pair of USB 3.0 ports. The board has a pair of SO-DIMM slots for memory, a x16 PCI Express slot and four SATA ports. It has an unusual rear port layout with a pair of Gigabit Ethernet ports, as well as an HDMI and DVI port and an optical S/PDIF out.

Next we have another low profile board which appears to have a custom form factor. It doesn’t have a huge range of onboard ports as the board only sports two USB 2.0 ports, a pair of audio jacks and a memory card reader. However, it does have a range of pin-headers spread out around its edges which allows for various interfaces to be attached. It also has two DDR3 SO-DIMM slots, a mini PCI Express slot with an option for a second half size mini PCI Express slot and two SATA ports, of which one has a power connector next to it. This rather intriguing board will come with an Atom D515 or D525 processor and it can optionally be kitted out with an ION 2 GPU.

The last board of this roundup is another really peculiar concoction by J&W called the D525-GT. The size appears to be similar to ASRock’s VP530 board, but J&W has fitted two PCI slots at the top with a x16 PCI Express slot at the bottom. Judging by the fact that this board will have an Atom D425 or D525 processor, the PCI Express slot is likely to be limited to two or at most four PCI Express lanes. The board has two DDR3 DIMM slots, two SATA ports and an otherwise fairly old fashioned port configuration. We can’t quite figure out who would buy this board, as it doesn’t have any sensible selling points.

Tiny motherboards are here to stay and we’re not complaining, but sometimes you have to wonder about the solutions the manufacturers come up with. Some of these boards don’t appear to have any specific target market and it seems like some companies just make something up and then hope that it’ll sell. The good news is that most of the boards we saw at the show features both DVI and HDMI ports making them suitable for HTPCs, which is something most DIYers would use these boards for.S|A

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