For small-form-factor (SFF) systems, a trade-off between size and expansion and upgrade potential is inevitable, but jumping from a full-size ATX platform to a tiny cube may be too drastic a move for some. Luckily, a sort of middle ground exists: Micro ATX. The Micro ATX standard has actually been around for years, but motherboards have typically been targeted at OEM systems, and they typically haven't been based on high-performance chipsets. Now, it appears that Micro ATX motherboard manufacturers have found NVIDIA's nForce2 chipset too tempting to resist.
Today, we're looking at Albatron's KM18G Pro, a Micro ATX motherboard based on NVIDIA's nForce2 chipset. The KM18G Pro comes decked out with integrated audio, Ethernet, and even video via the nForce2 IGP. Does it have enough power and expandability to bridge the gap between full-tower ATX systems and tiny SFF PCs for performance and feature-hungry enthusiasts? Read on to find out.
The Micro ATX standard doesn't offer a lot of board real estate to work with. Let's see what Albatron has managed to squeeze onto the board.
|CPU support||Socket 462-based AMD Athlon XP and Duron processors|
|Form factor||Micro ATX|
|North bridge||nForce2 IGP|
|South bridge||nForce2 MCP|
|Interconnect||Hyper Transport (800MB/s)|
|PCI slots||3 32-bit/33MHz|
|AGP slots||1, 2X/4X AGP (1.5V only)|
|Memory||3 184-pin DIMM sockets
Maximum of 3GB of DDR400/333/266 SDRAM
|Storage I/O||Floppy disk
2 channels ATA/133
|Legacy ports||1 PS/2 keyboard, 1 PS/2 mouse, Serial and Parallel ports|
2 USB 2.0/1.1 ports
2 additional USB 2.0/1.1 ports via PCI expansion header
|Audio||6-channel audio via nForce2 MCP/ALC650 codec
analog front, rear, and center output
shared mic and line in inputs
|Ethernet||10/100 Fast Ethernet via nForce2 MCP|
|Bus speeds||FSB: 100-200MHz in 1MHz increments
AGP: 66-87MHz, arbitrary 50, 90, 95, 97 or 100MHz
|Bus dividers||DRAM: FSB*1,1.2,1.33,1.5,1.6,1.66,2, 2.4,2.5,2.66,3,3.33,4|
|Monitoring||Voltage, fan status, and temperature monitoring|
What's most notable about the KM18G Pro's feature list is what isn't there. The board gets its audio, Ethernet, and video peripherals from the nForce2 chipset, but that's where the gravy train ends. The board lacks integrated RAID, Serial ATA, and only features four USB ports. The KM18G Pro also doesn't have Firewire ports, though a revision of the board called the KM18G Pro II is available with integrated IEEE 1394 support via NVIDIA's nForce2 MCP-T south bridge.
The KM18G Pro lacks many of the integrated peripherals that enthusiasts are starting to expect in high-end motherboards, and that fact may be off-putting for some. However, the spec makes a lot of sense given the limitations imposed by its Micro ATX form factor. Let's take a closer look at the board.