The Gigabyte GC230D is a good product that gets to irritate me just because it's a stone throw away from being a great product. The size of this motherboard is unreal, Mini-ITX products are remarkable in that regard, and despite featuring a modest 1.6GHz Atom processor I found the general performance to be excellent.
Then you have the power consumption levels, which is what this platform is all about with its efficient use of power. A regular desktop processor like any of the Intel Core 2s or AMD Phenoms are built with the opposite thinking, putting performance ahead and relegating efficiency or power consumption levels to a second set of priorities.
For general office type use the Gigabyte GC230D was surprisingly good. With 2GB of memory running Windows Vista Ultimate (64-bit), which is our current preferred platform for testing, the system was quite snappy. Honestly I would have no problem using the GC230D on a daily basis as my work horse. When jumping from my e-mail client to Microsoft Word or Excel, there was no noticeable lag, working just as well as the more expensive quad-core systems.
Those wanting to use more complex multimedia programs, video editing or graphics work, will definitely prefer the power hungry quad-core systems. But for the general user that spends a majority of time reading and sending email, browsing the web, writing the odd document, and waste away the day on Youtube, they need nothing more than a single core 1.6GHz Atom processor.
Although all current Atom desktop mainboards are using the same 945GC chipset, we hope something better can be paired with this processor in the near future. Intel really needs to work on their integrated graphics solutions, which is hardly news as everyone has been saying it for as long as I can remember. In our eyes, the 945GC chipset heavily cripples the platform potential, making it almost useless as a modern HTPC.
When we tried reproducing HD movies, we found that 720p movies would play, but the frame rate was far too low, producing a choppy and unwatchable playback, while 1080p failed to work at all. At the other side of the fence, VIA claims that their competing Nano L2100 platform can handle 1080p content, which unfortunately is also a lie. Though the Nano L2100 does handle 720p playback quite well from what we have seen so far.
The Gigabyte GC230D also lacks a few other essential HTPC features, such as HDMI or even DVI for that matter. Considering we have seen other manufacturers being a little more creative with their Mini-ITX boards in the past, we hope Gigabyte will extend their Atom desktop motherboard line with something more exciting shortly.
Overall the Gigabyte GC230D is an impressive piece of hardware that has a few disappointing flaws that are not limited to this motherboard. Priced at less than $100, it makes for one cheap build, and also makes it hard for us to be as nitpicky as we have been throughout the evaluation. Sooner or later, we reiterate the GMA graphics must go.