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Intel Core i3-2100T and Zotac H67-ITX WiFi

We have already discussed Brazos platform previously, but Intel Core i3-2100T is a new kid on the block. However, it is a very intriguing processor, primarily because its TDP is declared at 35 W. If we do not take into account Intel Atom, then looks like the company hasn’t had any energy-efficient desktop processors like that for a mighty long time, probably since the days of single-core Celeron processors on Conroe microarchitecture. And today we are talking not about a budget solution, but a CPU with quite acceptable performance for a mainstream price range.

The secret behind Core i3-2100T is fairly simple. Intel engineers managed to build an energy-efficient processor like that by making their dual-core Sandy Bridge based processor work at relatively low clock speeds and also lowering its core voltage to 1.1 V. This was more than enough. Moreover, they didn’t even have to disable Hyper-Threading in Core i3-2100T.

As a result, the processor specs look as follows:

Note that Core i3-2100T doesn’t support Turbo Boost technology and doesn’t understand AES NI cryptographic instructions. However, this is because it belongs to the Core i3 series, and not the sacrifices made for the same of better energy-efficiency.

Another peculiarity of Intel Core i3-2100T originating from its low power consumption is Intel Graphics Core 1000. As we have determined during our Core i5-2400S tests, processors from the 65 W S-series owe their energy-efficiency to corresponding modifications of their processor cores. The graphics core in this case remains exactly the same as in regular processors. However, this rule doesn’t apply to an even more economical Core i3-2100T: its graphics also boasts very modest power appetites. It has the same number of execution units as Intel HD Graphics 2000, but works at a lower 1100 MHz base frequency. Moreover, this frequency may dynamically drop down to 650 MHz making sure that the CPU power consumption remains within the defined limits.

Luckily, the only difference between Intel HD Graphics 1000 and Intel HD Graphics 2000 is the operational frequencies, so, Intel Core i3-2100T still has Intel Quick Sync technology intact, which is so needed in compact multimedia systems.

For comparison against our AMD Brazos platform we tried to find a suitable Mini-ITX mainboard for our 35 W Core i3-2100T processor. At this time there are not that many miniature LGA1155 mainboards in the market yet, but the leader in the field, Zotac, has not only designed a solution like that, but is already shipping this product in mass quantities. So, we decided to choose a mainboard from this particular manufacturer, namely Zotac H67-ITX WiFi, for our today’s review.

After meeting Gigabyte E350N-USB3 mainboard, Zotac H67-ITX WiFi seems overloaded with various components. Some of them didn’t even fit onto the top of the PCB and had to be moved to the bottom side of it.

However, it is important to understand that an extraordinary solution like that was a forced measure, since the LGA1155 processor socket needs much more space than an embedded miniature AMD E-350. So, Zotac engineers definitely deserve due credit for an inventive approach like that: despite small size, their mainboard is designed in accordance with the latest technology trends and supports any Sandy Bridge processors without any TDP limitations. Moreover, this mainboard is also compatible with a wide variety of cooling systems that is why all the area around the processor socket has been cleared of any large electronic components, which could potentially interfere with some large CPU coolers.

The developers also made sure that the processor installed into this mainboard received proper power. The processor voltage regulator circuitry has a four-phase design and is assembled with integral DrMOS chips of the regular MOSFETs. There is a small aluminum heatsink over the DrMOS chips. The chipset heatsink is also pretty small, which is more than enough because all high-frequency components are now located in the CPU, and the chipset is actually serving merely as a South Bridge.

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