Sunday, August 06, 2006

Tiny Motherboard with 5W Processor for $60

This PCChips M789CG (v3.0A)motherboard comes with a low power onboard VIA C3 processor, and priced under $60 makes it perfect for a low cost DIY small and quiet PC. Measuring only 17 x 23cm, it's smaller than mATX and slightly larger than Mini-ITX (17 x 17cm). VIA has been putting their processors on Mini-ITX boards for a while now (and now even Nano-ITX at 12 x 12cm), but these are priced much higher, unlike this PCChips version that seems targeted to the budget user.

Although labelled as a "2000+" processor, it is actually a 866Mhz VIA Nemiah Samuel2 processor with a 133Mhz FSB. Unfortunately it's low power consumption (5W typical) also comes at a price. It's a slow performer rated below a Pentium III 500 Mhz making it unsuitable for any processor intensive tasks (ie. 3D, video encoding/decoding, number crunching, etc.). Some benchmark comparisons at,,, and
However for simple day-to-day tasks like browsing, email, chat, data entry, mp3 playback, or even a file server it's more than sufficient.

The board comes with a decent selection of I/O intefaces, including 2 IDE channels, 4+2 x USB 2.0 ports, parellel/serial ports, PS/2 mouse/keyboard ports, onboard VGA, onboard 10/100M LAN, and onboard 6 channel audio. It utilizes DDR266 RAM, however plugging in a higher speed RAM will also work fine (like DDR333 or DDR400 which is more readily available); the board will automatically set it to run at 266mhz. The BIOS is relatively modern and will support large disk sizes, boot from USB devices, boot from LAN, etc. It even includes two onboard temperature sensors, however no BIOS fan control nor via Speedfan. With CrystalCPUID, the multiplier can be lowered and the CPU speed changes accordingly, however the system locked up after a short while; voltage could not be changed.

There is one small fan on the CPU. Although it's not loud, it's not quiet enough for a "silent" PC. The fan is easily removed, but it's small size means a quiet replacement will probably be hard to come by. The heatsink is very tiny and not suitable for fanless operation. Unfortunately it seems to be glued to the CPU so removing it may require some solvent and extra care.

Here from the side, you can get a better idea of how thin the CPU heatsink is. From other VIA boards, it seems a pretty large heatsink would be necessary in order to run completely fanless, however a slightly larger heatsink might allow a larger and quieter system fan to provide sufficent coolilng.

With it's small size and low power consumption (ie low heat output) this makes installing a system into a large variety of custom enclosures possible (if you search the net, bread box, toaster, humidor, or maybe even a jewelry box, toolbox, cookie tin, etc.).

Specifications of this board at PCChips and customer reviews at newegg.

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