Board Design & Layout

At first glance, it's not hard to assume that the Atom 230 processor lies under the largest heatsink used on the GC230D, which is also actively cooled. However, you'd be wrong to make such assumption, as the 945GC north bridge chip occupies this space instead.

The larger of the two remaining smaller heatsinks is used to dissipate heat from the 1.6GHz processor which has a TDP of just 4 watts. According to the temperature readings we got from the board's sensors, the Atom processor idled at 38 degrees, while under full load it reached just 41 degrees.

Overall the Gigabyte GC230D's cooling design follows that of the Intel reference design. In fact, the GC230D is very similar to the Intel BOXD945GCLF, which appears to cost some ~$20 less.

Although the cooling worked well on this board, the use of a small fan is not too appealing as those tend to fail eventually. Had Gigabyte used a single passive heatsink to cool all three components, this would have been a better design approach. Furthermore, this would have helped users justify spending more on this motherboard opposed to Intel’s own model.

Comparing the Gigabyte GC230D to the Intel BOXD945GCLF, there is very little differentiating the two. There is one small aspect of the GC230D that makes more sense, the I/O panel.

For reasons unknown, Intel has crammed the USB ports together creating a huge empty space between the USB/LAN ports and the audio jacks. Gigabyte on the other hand has spaced these ports out evenly, allowing users to insert USB flash drives side by side, for example.

An even greater advantage that we see in the GC230D is the BIOS, where Gigabyte allows the user to adjust the FSB. However the options are limited and there is no way to adjust the CPU voltage, which is probably a good idea given the tiny passive heatsink used to cool the processor. Still, we were able to get a stable 1.8GHz overclock out of the Atom 230, which represents a 12.5% boost in clock frequency.