Intel's DG45ID fulfills
the need for a reliable, inexpensive and small motherboard that can be used as a
home server, in the office, or as a home theatre PC. After some testing, we've
found it's more than capable of doing any of those tasks.
The key to the success of the DG45ID motherboard as a
home theatre platform is the Intel GMA X4500HD integrated graphics processor. It's a
pretty big improvement on Intel's IGPs from previous generations. Playing back
high-definition 1080p Blu-ray movies over the HDMI output was flawless, with low
CPU and system resource usage. Intel's GMA X4500HD is more than capable of HD
video playback because Intel engineered H.264, VC-1 and MPEG-2 hardware decoding
into the G45 Express chipset so these tasks are off loaded from the processor.The
Intel GMA X4500 HD also doesn't have any trouble with standard 2D desktop
applications, but make no mistake: this is still very much an IGP, and it's not
at all suited for 3D gaming.
Fortunately the graphics capabilities of the Intel
DG45ID motherboard can be expanded by placing a dedicated graphics card in the DG45ID's PCI Express x16
slots. The DG45ID can also have additional peripherals installed into either of
its PCI Expess x1 slots, and has a legacy PCI slot for older devices.
Azalia HD codec for 8.1 channel stereo output can output
over the HDMI jack or via the optical S/PDIF, which is a nice touch for those of
you putting together a killer home theatre system on the cheap.
Audio on the DG45ID is handled by the Azalia HD codec,
which gives 8.1 channel stereo output, that can be routed along the HDMI output,
through an S/PDIF out, or through a multiple-out stereo jack system. There are
plenty of options here that will fit pretty much any speaker/home theatre setup.
For those using the Intel DG45ID in more
serious environments, this motherboard still holds its own. With six USB
connections, eSATA, Firewire 400 and six SATA ports, the DG45ID has plenty of
room to expand. Thanks to compatibility with pretty much any Socket 775
processor that Intel is currently selling, and its support for low-cost DDR2
memory, it's pretty easy to build a decent Intel DG45ID-based computer system on a
So how does this all stack up as a value? Well for $125 CDN, ($110 USD, £70 GBP), the Intel DG45ID has a
pretty complete feature set that can compete with more expensive IGP offerings
that use AMD and NVIDIA chipsets. While these later two manufacturers might have
IGPs that give better 3D gaming performance and better overclocking, neither of
those tasks are particularly suited for micro-ATX motherboards.
Those looking to build a home theatre box or just
seeking an inexpensive but fully-featured office computer should definitely
consider the Intel DG45ID. It's a small motherboard that manages to live up to
Intel's big reputation.
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