Intel® Desktop Board DN2800MT

Recently new motherboards featuring cedar trail (Atom third generation) atoms CPU’s started to pop up on I am quite excited about the DN2800MT which could be the perfect match for a home built router/nas. The reason i like it is that is has the new N2800 CPU (on the homepage it is listed as having a D2800 Atom CPU but there is no such CPU. Digging through the technical specification will reveal that is does have a N2800 CPU. Nice work Intel ;-)) The N2800 has a max TDP of 6.5 Watt which is half the TDP of D510/D525. Also the N2800 supports Intels speedstep technology so idle power should drop (in theory) to almost zero. At least on the CPU. Previous D510/D525 will use max TDP (13 watt) 24/7. This is a problem as a home router/nas will be idle most of the time wasting power doing nothing. Board is also passively cooled and low profile so you can fit it into anything, even custom built cases. Integrated PSU so the board will just take a DC adapter as power input, again saving space in the case. Intel also maxed out slots on the board:

  • One PCI Express* x1 slot
  • One PCI Express* Mini Card (Half-size)
  • One PCI Express* Mini Card (Full/Half-size adjustable) with mSATA support

Nice addition as it is possible to have two wireless pci mini express cards giving access to dual 2.4/5 ghz wifi. Onboard Intel network interface controller is also a good thing instead of the Realtek NIC featured on previous boards from Intel. Inclusion of a HDMI connector and a new graphic core called GMA 3650 able to decode full hd 1080p streams without much fuss, makes the possibilities even larger. It should be noted that the GMA 3650 is driven by a PowerVR SGX 545 developed by Imagination Technologies and not by Intel itself. This will make support for Linux troublesome at best. There are rumors that Intel at some time in 2012 will release a Linux driver but i would not count on that. Still this board seems like a low power swiss army knife. Only your imagination will decide what the board will be used for.

UPDATE (10-02-2012)
News just in from will confirm that Intel does indeed have some licensing trouble with the GPU currently used in cedar trail licensed from Imagination Technologies. Intel will in the future create its own gpu to be used in the next generation of Atoms. The discontinuation is good news at least looking at the future, but probabaly bad news for the DN2800MT (and other cedar trail CPU’s) if you wish to hardware accelerate your media using an os different from windows.

What still needs to be verified is what it actually will pull at wall. Some sites announcing Cedar Trail will say that the announced TDP includes the total of the board not only the CPU. Personally i do not believe that. Looking through the technical specification does not seem to verify that either:

As seen on the picture there is a lot going on and my first thought is that the Intel DN2800MT this will in no way be able to compete with my Intel D510MO which uses around 20 watt total measured at wall. Second thoughts tells me that Intel will not release a motherboard using more power than previous models, so i am looking forward to reviews of the board showing the actual power usage. Other sites say a 20% decrease from previous models (pine trail)

UPDATE 03-03-2012
Seems the boards are finally hitting at least some consumers:

Power usage looks VERY good. But graphics seems to still be a problem. Intel have released Megoo, which should include a binary driver for Linux. Only 32bit but better than nothing. Intel does indeed seem to be on the right track with this board. I am still not convinced though, and not sure if i ever will buy this board. The Atom/ION combo is still a better choice if you wish to run a media center on Linux. For all other uses this board is a killer. Same performance as the D525 but using much lower power.

As commented by Joggebogge with link included:
This suggests that it will idle at 10 watt. High 15 watt. Those are quite good numbers indeed! Still needs verification and also power testing running Linux.

Known limitations and missing/odd features

  • Intels nm10 express chipset will only allow two sata drives. Installing a msata drive into one of the mini express slots will disable one of the onboard sata connectors. It is a pity that Intel decided to reuse the nm10 express chipset with such a limitation. That said it is not a deal breaker unless you absolutely must use more than two drives.
  • 8 usb 2.0 ports but not a single usb 3.0 port. Again a chipset limitation. Depending on usage most people will not even notice this. But if you use it for NAS it would be nice to be able to attach some faster usb drives.
  • PowerVR SGX 545 driven graphics. Linux support at this time is non existing.

While we are still waiting till people actually starts to receive boards and testing, there is not much to be said. As mentioned I think this could make the NAS/Router/Firewall of your dreams using lower power than previous options. That said Intel Atom is to undergo massive changes in 2013, where it probably will be completely converted to a SOC (System on a chip) making it even more power efficient. Can you wait?

(Thank you all for the useful comments, keep them coming.)

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