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Build your own Eee Box: Intel debuts Atom circuit boards

Small Intel motherboards based on the Atom processor yield portable desktops.

Appropriately, a tiny Intel system board has debuted to match the tiny Atom processor. This could yield more portable desktop PC designs like the Eee Box.

The ultra-compact voomPC rugged car PC enclosure can take a mini-ITX board with Atom processor
The ultra-compact VoomPC rugged car PC enclosure can take a Mini-ITX board with Atom processor. Voom

The Intel-made motherboard is based on the Mini-ITX standard, which was originally developed by Via Technologies.

Diminutive desktops based on these motherboards can get as small as a typical notebook PC--a design small enough and light enough to be portable.

Intel is calling this category of desktops that sport an Atom 230 or N270 processor Nettops.

Nettops are designed for basic computing tasks like browsing the Web and sending e-mail and are generally cheap, usually less than $300. They typically offer more expansion options, more ports, and greater flexibility than Atom-based Netbooks, which are essentially small notebook PCs.

(Watch an Intel Nettop motherboard video here.)

Intel Nettops contain tiny desktop motherboards
Intel Nettops contain tiny desktop motherboards. Intel

Mini-ITX designs are synonymous with low power and low cost. Intel is adopting the design because of its relative popularity in low-cost markets.

The Intel D945GCLF board includes the 1.6GHz Atom 230 processor, an Intel 945GC Express chipset with GMA 950 graphics, and Serial ATA (SATA) and USB 2.0 connectors for about $80.

Instead of building a box, there are, of course, pre-built systems coming like the Eee Box. It packs an Intel Atom N270 (1.6GHz), 1GB of memory, an 80GB hard disk drive, and Windows XP for $299.