Compact Mini-ITX systems have long become a pretty popular topic in the computer market. Since the processor makers switched their focus to improving the performance-per-watt ratio of their products, there started to appear more interesting platforms that allowed building decent multimedia, home or office systems in compact system cases. The most popular solutions are built around Intel Atom and AMD Zacate, but Intel also began production of energy-efficient CPUs with Sandy Bridge microarchitecture. We have recently reviewed LGA 1155 Mini-ITX platforms and arrived at the conclusion that systems built on them demonstrated the same level of computational performance as the common mainstream computer systems.
However, compact form-factor continues to set serious limitations for the graphics sub-system. Unfortunately, there are many reasons why even mainstream contemporary graphics cards cannot be used in a typical Mini-ITX system. Graphics cards are pretty large, they require serious cooling and usually consume much more power than the power supply units in compact system cases can provide. It means that miniature computers should rely solely on graphics integrated into the processors, which, honestly, immediately sets restrictions to their possible application field eliminating the gaming usage almost completely.
However, AMD came up with a solution a while back and started actively promoting their APU concept – hybrid processors, in which computational cores are combined with a pretty fully-functional and relatively fast Radon HD graphics cores. In fact, the first desktop APU implementation - Llano processors – can be used perfectly fine in an entry-level gaming system, because their integrated graphics core is powerful enough to deliver necessary performance.
All that said, it is particularly interesting to discuss the possibility of building compact Mini-ITX systems with AMD Llano processors inside, i.e. designed for Socket FM1 CPUs sold under E2, A4, A6 and A8 brands. Of course, they are not as energy-efficient as Sandy Bridge processors from the T series, for example, however, there are a few models with 65 W TDP among them. These processors are quite fit for compact computer systems, therefore a lot of mainboard makers designed and started to produce Mini-ITX mainboards for Socket FM1.
Today we are going to talk about four currently available Mini-ITX mainboards based on AMD Lynx platform. They are all designed in the same form-factor and support Socket FM1 CPUs. All mainboard makers decided to go with the same exact core logic set – AMD A75. Since it is one of best feature-rich i/o hubs, all miniature AMD Llano mainboards support current interfaces and therefore look very attractive, probably just as good as the LGA 1155 mainboards of the same size.