Crisp and Refreshing, New Thin-ITX Board from Intel

Marshalltown Mini-ITX Motherboard

Intel DN2800MT "Marshalltown"

Since the day we caught word of Intel’s new Cedar View processors, we’ve been itching to start playing with them and getting them into the hands of our customers. Launch day has finally arrived, so we’re showing off a very special mainboard from Intel that’s helping usher in this new generation. The DN2800MT is here, and it’s ready to expand upon what the D945GSEJT started: the Thin-ITX form factor.

Several key features of this board are apparent as soon as one lays eyes upon it. A second PCIe Mini Card connector has been added, one of which is configurable as mSATA. The legacy PCI slot has disappeared and been replaced with a 1x speed PCI Express slot—not only does this provide more bandwidth for peripherals, but the smaller size of the connector will be greatly appreciated by those without a lot of physical space at their disposal.

A second SO-DIMM slot has been added, so users are no longer limited to a single RAM module like they were in the case of the Johnstown board. The DN2800MT will accept up to 4 GB of DDR3 at speeds up to 1066 MHz—providing both double the memory capacity and double the bandwidth of its predecessor. The board has two SATA 3 Gb/sec. connectors, with a SATA power connector located conveniently between them, which makes routing the internal cables that much easier. In addition to LVDS, the board also sports an Embedded DisplayPort connector, which is situated on the bottom of the PCB.

LEARN MORE ABOUT
MINI-ITX MOTHERBOARDS

Taking a look at the rear I/O of the board, we find a barrel jack, four USB, VGA, Gigabit LAN, HDMI, and audio in/out. The barrel jack here is a little more flexible than most when it comes to the voltages it’s compatible with, happily accepting anywhere between 12 and 19 volts. The internal power connector (which is still located behind the barrel jack) takes the form of a space saving 2-pin connector and is compatible with the same voltage range.

Marshalltown Backplate

DN2800MT Low-Profile Backplate

Being a genuine Thin-ITX board, the DN2800MT comes with two flavors of I/O shield: there is a standard ATX-compatible shield and an actual Thin-ITX I/O shield for use in slim cases. This is an improvement over the Johnstown, which had Thin-ITX’s low-profile rear I/O ports but only came with a run-of-the-mill ATX-sized I/O shield. Both shields have a mysterious looking rectangular punch-out above the HDMI and audio in/out holes. Investigation reveals that it lines up with the board’s configurable PCIe Mini Card slot, and it’s there to enable use of an ExpressCard/34 adapter. Imaginations are running wild here with thoughts of the removable devices that could take advantage of this, with pictures of USB 3.0, network, and COM add-in cards dancing around in our heads.

Backpanel of M350

Backpanel of DN2800MT in M350 Case

Two of the USB 2.0 ports on the rear of the board stand out from the others with brilliant yellow connectors. The choice of color here wasn’t just for aesthetics—the yellow signifies that these are high-current USB ports, which have are capable of outputting more amperage than standard USB 2.0 ports. This could allow one to ditch the “wall wart” style power adapters found with some larger USB peripherals, with all the required power for compatible devices being drawn from the USB ports themselves.

The Intel N2800 CPU is impressive in its own right. It’s a dual-core 32 nm part that has 1 MB of cache and Hyperthreading, humming along at 1.86 GHz while sipping only 6.5 W of electricity. It talks to the NM10 PCH chip via a 2.5 GT/s DMI link, and the onboard Intel GMA graphics controller has a base frequency of 640 MHz, which is capable of driving displays at resolutions up to 1920×1200. The NM10 PCH itself draws only 2.1 W of power, resulting in a combined CPU+chipset draw of 8.6 W. Compare this to an 11.8 W combined TDP for the main chips on the Johnstown board: 945GSE Northbridge at 6 W, with a 3.3 W ICH7 Southbridge, and the 2.5 W Atom N270.

All this talk of power savings and performance increases warrants some benchmarking. Pitting the DN2800MT against the D945GSEJT in a Kill-A-Watt monitored PCMark05 benchmark, we came up with a score of 1513 for the Johnstown and 2089 for the Marshalltown (the higher number being better) while testing with default settings. The DN2800MT hovered at around 12 W during most of the test, with a low of 10 and a peak of 15. The older D945GSEJT board spent most of its time around 17 W, with a few spikes up to the 20 W mark and a low of 13.

Both benchmarks were performed using Seasonic 12 V, 60 W AC adapters with a Level 5 power efficiency rating, and wattage was measured at the wall using a Kill-a-Watt. Both boards were using 32-bit versions of Windows 7 Pro. The only deviation (besides the mainboards) between the hardware in the two systems was the RAM: the Johnstown board was using a 2 GB module of DDR2 800, while the Marshalltown was using a 2 GB module of DDR3 1066.

A roughly 30% increase in synthetic benchmark score is nice, but the icing on the cake here is the power savings. The Marshalltown achieved its higher score while having a similar percentage of power savings—averaging 5 to 6 W lower than the Johnstown, or roughly one third less juice. Both boards were booting off of 2.5” 7200rpm hard drives during testing. If we had used solid-state drives instead (perhaps some Emphase SATA flash modules), then wattage would have been even lower across the board.

It’s always nice to start off the new year with some cool new hardware. The DN2800MT hasn’t fallen short here, and we’re very excited to see what kinds of new projects it’s going to enable. What projects would you use the new Marshalltown board for? Please share your ideas with us in the comments!

LEARN MORE ABOUT
MINI-ITX MOTHERBOARDS

About Travis Bigelow
I joined Logic Supply a little over two years ago, and have been falling deeper and deeper in love with the embedded PC world ever since. During my off-time I am an avid mountain biker, and despite being a self-proclaimed "geek", I'm often ridiculed for never having seen the Star Wars movies.
This entry was posted in Products and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Crisp and Refreshing, New Thin-ITX Board from Intel

  1. Steve B says:

    Would like to see a I/O Shield and PCI Express Riser Card kit for the DN2800MT for use with the M350 Mini-ITX case. Do you know if one will be available?

  2. Steven says:

    Are there any 1U rackmount cases for this form factor?

  3. Craig says:

    Grrrr. I just don’t understand Intel’s half-hearted approach to mSATA. Marshalltown is fine, but why doesn’t Canoe Creek get the same love?

    Four our needs, the D2500CC is a much better all-round solution. It has a pair of Gigabit ethernet ports, two external RS-232 ports for various devices, and just as importantly, two more internal RS-232 headers for our I/O boards that we’ve previously hooked up via USB-serial converters. For use in a computer room (or other more esoteric locations) I also prefer ATX over a DC jack and an external brick any day, and having an ATX supply gives lots of power to leech for the I/O boards we bundle inside some systems.

    It would have been nice if Canoe Creek had provided a dual-purpose mini PCIe slot, but in their infinite wisdom Intel have decided to offer mSATA on only two boards, the other being the DH61AG. They very helpfully indicate that an adapter can be used for mSATA with other motherboards, which rather defeats the purpose as the adaptor pictured looks as if it’s the same size as a 2.5″ drive:

    http://www.intel.com/support/motherboards/desktop/sb/CS-032415.htm

    It’s doubly depressing since their 311 series SSD offers a lot of SLC flash for cheap. Sigh. I guess I’ll just have to find space for a small 3rd-party mSATA adapter.

    By the way, is there any date set for availability of the Cedar View boards?

  4. Another Steve says:

    Only 30% faster? I think your benchmark must have been single-threaded. This board has 2 cores (4 threads), vs. the old Johnstown’s single core with 2 threads. I suspect that the actual throughput is considerably higher. Probably closer to 150-200%!

    Can’t wait to get my hands on one. Hopefully there will soon be really compact cases for it like the Morex T-1610. Do you guys know of any in the works, or cases supporting the thin profile bracket (is it even a standardized size)?

  5. Kristina Bond Kristina Bond says:

    Hi @AnotherSteve,
    Yes, we will be offering a super compact and fanless case designed specifically for the Marshalltown. You can see the system specs for it on the LGX ML200 Case product page. We haven’t heard anything from our other case vendors, but it seems likely that we’ll see something released later this year.

    Kristina

  6. Kristina Bond Kristina Bond says:

    Hi @Steven,
    I am not aware of any 1U rackmount cases that are designed specifically for this board. However, there are 1U rackmount cases that are likely compatible with the DN2800MT. The low-profile backplate that comes with this board is not 1U compliant, so you would have to use the generic backplates that come with rackmount cases (and just punch-out the needed I/O). Thin-ITX is Mini-ITX, but with a low-profile height, so you shouldn’t run into any issues installing this board in any of our Mini-ITX cases.

    I hope that answers your question.

    Thanks!
    Kristina

  7. Kristina Bond Kristina Bond says:

    Hi @Steve,
    We haven’t heard anything yet from the manufacturer on whether or not they’ll be developing a backplate. We have an inquiry in and we’ll keep you posted on any developments.

    Thanks!
    Kristina

  8. Kristina Bond Kristina Bond says:

    Hi @Craig,
    Yes, I can definitely share your frustration with motherboard manufacturers’ decisions to omit certain features from boards that would have greatly benefited from their inclusion. I am assuming that the D2500CC is being positioned slightly differently than the Marshalltown. Being “Thin-ITX” and favoring a small footprint, it makes sense to supply it with the ability to maintain that slim size even with the addition of storage. The Canoe Creek is targeted at the more traditional industrial market, with a varied I/O feature set and more flexibility integrating the board with existing systems (and power solutions) being more important than its size.

    We have a few Cedarview board options available now, but all are from Jetway: NF9C-2600 and NC9KDL-2700. We are still waiting the arrival of the Intel boards.

    Thanks!
    Kristina

  9. Andy says:

    Hi Travis, interesting review, thanks. I’m missing one major aspect though:

    I would be interested to know whether this board can run fanless in a M350 case and if yes what are the sensor temperature readings at idle and at full load?

    I tried to run it’s predecessor the D945GSEJT in a M350 without a fan and the temperatures, although still within the allowed range, were a little to high for my liking, idling at over 50C and going well above 70C at full load.

  10. Daniel Rune Jensen says:

    I will use this board for a custom built powefull router. Have gotten tired of exchanging routers every now and then when i can just replace the wireless networks cards instead. Also building a router gives much more freedom than having to stick to odd buggy firmware. Board is quite cheap as well hope it will arrive at dealers real soon :-)

  11. Travis Bigelow Travis Bigelow says:
    Logic Supply

    Hey @Andy,

    I experienced similar temperatures with the D945GSEJT using the stock heatsinks in a fanless configuration (70 – 75C under load), but during my bench-testing with the DN2800MT I found that the CPU had peaked at a mere 48C during a burn-in, using the stock cooling solution without a fan. Based on that data, I am confident that the DN2800MT will stay much cooler than the Johnstown did in a fanless M350 setup.

  12. Andy says:

    Thanks for your reply Travis, a peak of only 48C sounds very good to me! Now I really can’t wait for the board to become available.

    Just like Steve B mentioned I also hope we will see an I/O Shield and PCI Express Riser Card kit for the DN2800MT and the M350, just like there was for the D945GSEJT.

  13. Doug says:

    Does anyone know where you can buy one of these at yet? Intel said it is shipping when I emailed them?

    thanks!

  14. Travis Bigelow Travis Bigelow says:
    Logic Supply

    @Doug – We’ll have them in stock before the end of the month :)

  15. Erik says:

    I would also like to see an I/O Shield and PCI Express Riser Card kit for the DN2800MT and the M350.

  16. Philip says:

    I would also like to see an I/O Shield and PCI Express Riser Card kit for the DN2800MT and the M350

  17. Kristina Bond Kristina Bond says:

    Hi Philip,
    We are actually developing our own I/O shield and PCI x1 riser for use with the M350 and the Marshalltown. We are a few weeks out from stocking it. When we get them in, I’ll do an update.

  18. Philip Richardson says:

    @Kristina thanks for the reply. Can I pre-order? I got impatient, and I’ve bought everything I could for my configuration (i.e. just waiting on a riser and backplate), so I really want to get my hands on this kit! In the meantime, I’ve located at reverse configuration PCIe x16 card that I’m planning on hacking into shape…

  19. Kristina Bond Kristina Bond says:

    Hi Philip,
    Once we get the product added to our site, you’ll be able to pre-order. I anticipate us seeing these kits in 4-6 weeks and the product likely will be available for pre-order before that. Not sure if that is within your timeline, but maybe the current hack you have right now will be enough until the other one comes in.
    I wish I had better news to deliver!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>