Meet the Viiv Platform: Intel Core Duo for Desktops

Intel has introduced mobile processors into desktop systems with its new multimedia platform aka Viiv. Let’s see how well the mobile Core Duo can cope with typical desktop tasks. You are also going to see the first Socket 479 mainboard for desktop computers ASUS N4L-VM DH!

by Ilya Gavrichenkov
05/14/2006 | 07:04 PM

It’s not a new idea to use a mobile processor in a desktop PC. PC enthusiasts were casting interested looks at mobile processors from the Pentium M series ever since Intel had transferred its desktop CPU series to the NetBurst architecture. As opposed to it, the Pentium M was based on the P6 architecture that had been employed in the highly successful Pentium III CPU series. First experiments of installing the Pentium M on desktop mainboards (made possible by ASUS who introduced a special adapter; read more in our article called Intel Pentium M 780 as Heart of Your Desktop PC, with ASUS CT-479 Adapter) showed that this idea did make sense. Senior Pentium M models had a normal performance even by the standards of desktop computers and were even better than CPUs with the NetBurst architecture in other characteristics, e.g. in heat dissipation. Unfortunately, such systems never achieved the status of a mass-user solution, mostly due to opposition on the Intel side. The company didn’t look favorably at experiments of that kind and made steps so that the adapters and mobile processors were not widely available. Moreover, processor architectures began to progress towards dual-core designs, so the efficiency of using mobile CPUs in desktop computers was put in doubt.

 

The situation changed this spring when dual-core CPUs conquered the mobile market after their release at the beginning of this year. As a result, Intel produced a new generation of processors for notebooks which met today’s requirements but were still based on the efficient P6 architecture. Another fact confirming the efficiency of this architecture is that Intel’s upcoming processors for all the market segments (Conroe, Merom and Woodcrest) are going to have a core micro-architecture similar to the one the Core Duo and Pentium M have. But until the Conroe is released, the mobile Core Duo may prove to be a lucky choice for a desktop computer.

Some mainboard manufacturers caught at the opportunity and began developing Socket 479 products compatible with the Core Duo. AOpen was the first of them, announcing its Socket 479 i975Xa-YDG mainboard on Intel’s top-end i975X chipset. Unfortunately, they only made an official announcement and issued a few samples. The i975Xa-YDG remained on paper ever after. Yet the Core Duo eventually found its way to desktop computers and it was Intel itself who helped it with its Viiv platform!

The Viiv platform is intended by its developer for use in home multimedia centers, in computers that are to be the entertainment center in the Digital Home. Besides providing opportunities to watch movies and TV, listen to music, work with digital images and play games (arcades, mostly), computers built according to the Viiv concept must have a home-oriented exterior design and provide enough performance, but must not produce much noise. And for these purposes there is nothing better than Intel’s mobile processors! Of course, Viiv computers can also use CPUs of the Pentium D family with the NetBurst architecture, but it is more reasonable and logical, considering the intended applications of the Viiv platform, to use modern dual-core processors of the Core Duo series that have been so successful in notebooks as part of the Centrino Duo platform (read more in our article called Centrino Duo Mobile Platform Review).

Realizing this fact, Intel gave the green light to mainboard manufacturers who were willing to produce Viiv-compatible Socket 479 products. And the result is that there should soon appear desktop mainboards with support for Core Duo processors, and this is not the single thing they will have in common. They are all going to be designed in Micro form-factors and to have an integrated graphics core and enhanced opportunities to connect to external peripheral devices. Although neither of these traits is indeed required from a Viiv-compatible mainboard, yet most manufacturers view the new multimedia platform in exactly this light.

Today you are going to see one a Viiv-ready mainboard ASUS offered for us to test. The N4L-VM DH looks much alike to the typical portrait we’ve drawn in the previous paragraph because it is based on the integrated i945GM chipset. However, we are not as much interested in the Viiv platform as we are in ordinary desktop systems where this mainboard can also be used. So, this review is about how useful the mobile processor Core Duo can be in a normal desktop computer. You’ll see how it copes with typical desktop applications and learn if the Viiv platform deserves any interest from PC enthusiasts.

ASUS N4L-VM DH

Specs and Bundle

In the first place, this article could be written because we got a Socket 479 mainboard capable of working with Intel Core Duo processors. So we guess the ASUS N4L-VM DH mainboard is worthy of a closer look since if it were not for this mainboard, which is one of the first serial Viiv platforms compatible with the Core Duo, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to check the performance of Intel’s new mobile processor in desktop applications.

The ASUS N4L-VM DH is targeted at Digital Home computers and this fact has affected its design. First of all, it is made in the MicroATX form-factor which is rather disliked by PC enthusiasts. Second, this mainboard is based on a chipset with an integrated graphics core – performance-conscious users will hardly want to use it. Fortunately the mainboard allows using an add-on PCI Express x16 graphics card, but its cost is higher due to the integrated graphics. It is selling currently for $140-150 – quite a high price for a MicroATX product.

And this one and a half hundred dollars will buy you the following functionality:

ASUS N4 L- VM DH

CPUs

Intel Core Duo/Core Solo for Socket 479

Chipset

Intel 945GM (i945GM + ICH7-M)

FSB frequency, MHz

100-500 (with 1MHz increments)

Overclocking-friendly functions

Adjustable Vmem

Memory

2 DDR2 DIMM slots for dual-channel DDR2-667/533 SDRAM

PCI Express slots

1 x PCI Express x16
1 x PCI Express x1

PCI expansion slots

2

USB 2.0 ports

8 (4 – on the rear panel)

IEEE1394 ports

2 (1 – on the rear panel, via TI 1394a controller)

ATA-100/133

1 ATA-100 channel (in the chipset)

Serial ATA

2 Serial ATA-150 channels (with RAID support in the chipset)
2 Serial ATA-300 channels (with RAID support via JMicron JMB363 controller)

ATA RAID support

RAID 0, 1, Matrix Storage by the chipset
RAID 0, 1 by JMicron JMB363 controller

Integrated sound

8-channel HD codec - Realtek ALC882M

Integrated network

Gigabit Ethernet контроллер Intel 82573L

Additional features

Intel GMA950 integrated graphics core

BIOS

AMIBIOS v02.58

Form-factor

MicroATX, 245mm x 245mm

Despite the modest dimensions and integrated graphics, the mainboard’s characteristics are good. Of course, there are fewer expansion slots than usual due to the MicroATX form-factor, but the mainboard features an additional RAID controller, a fine HD codec and a FireWire controller. It wouldn’t be a shame for a desktop, enthusiasts-targeted mainboard to have such specs.

The accessories supplied with the mainboard aren’t gorgeous, but sufficient for a mainstream product. I found the following in the box:

Note that there is a special cooler included with the mainboard. Since Socket 479 processors are meant mainly for use in mobile computers, appropriate coolers cannot be easily found in shops. ASUS took care about proper cooling, but I think it would be better if they had put some standard cooler installation mechanism on the mainboard for using any widely available CPU cooler with it.

Closer Look

The ASUS N4L-VM DH mainboard is in many respects an odd product. Its targeting at multimedia applications is emphasized even in its name: the letters DH stands for nothing else but “Digital Home”. So it’s quite interesting to see what exactly this mainboard can do.

Its compatibility with CPUs comes first. Although the mainboard carries a Socket 479, it only supports processors of Intel’s Core Duo and Core Solo series. Earlier mobile processors from the Pentium M series cannot be installed on the ASUS N4L-VM DH. It’s Intel’s fault, of course: processors of the Pentium M and Core series are pin-incompatible mechanically and electrically, although both use a 479-pin interface.

The Socket 479 itself is implemented in its desktop modification. It is opened and closed with a steel lever rather than with a screwdriver like on notebooks. In other words, ASUS made life easier for those users who are going to manually assemble a system on the N4L-VM DH.

The mobile chipset i945GM is the basis of the reviewed mainboard and it doesn’t differ much from the i945G which is meant for use in desktop computers. Putting aside the power-related improvements, the i945GM only differs in its support of the 667MHz Quad Pumped Bus that Intel’s Core Duo and Core Solo processors use.

The ASUS N4L-VM DH has two DDR2 DIMM slots. The memory bus can be clocked either at 667MHz or at 533MHz. You can use the memory in single-channel or dual-channel mode (two identical modules are required to enable the latter). It should be noted that the i945GM supports the same operating modes for DDR2 SDRAM as are available with the i975X, the most advanced chipset from Intel for high-performance systems.

The ASUS N4L-VM DH features the Intel GMA950 graphics core integrated in the chipset’s North Bridge. In comparison with the earlier GMA900 core from i915 series chipsets, the new integrated graphics accelerator has higher frequencies and supports higher memory speeds (you can learn more about Graphics Media Accelerator 950 in our Centrino Duo platform review). Fortunately the ASUS N4L-VM DH doesn’t limit your choice to the integrated core only. The mainboard also offers a PCI Express x16 slot for an external graphics card. If you install one, the integrated core is automatically disabled.

Most peripheral interfaces are implemented on the mainboard via the ICH7-M South Bridge; some are provided by additional onboard controllers.

Particularly, the South Bridge supports one Parallel ATA-100 and two Serial ATA-150 channels on this mainboard. The Serial ATA controller integrated in the ICH7-M allows uniting the hard drives into RAID arrays of levels 0 or 1 and to use Intel’s exclusive Matrix Storage technology. However, ASUS thought this insufficient and added an additional Serial ATA RAID controller JMicron JMB363. This chip is connected via the high-speed PCI Express x1 bus, provides two more Serial ATA ports, and allows uniting the connected drives into RAID arrays of level 0 or 1. The ports are Serial ATA-II compliant. It means they provide a peak bandwidth of 3GB/s, support NCQ and hot swapping.

So, the ASUS N4L-VM DH mainboard can work with up to four Serial ATA drives simultaneously. One Serial ATA port (provided by the JMicron controller that supports the hot swapping feature) is located at the mainboard’s back panel. The owner of an ASUS N4L-VM DH thus has an opportunity to work with external SATA drives, but has to take care about power issues – the drive needs power, but there is no external SATA power connector on the mainboard’s back panel.

The audio section of the ASUS N4L-VM DH employs a Realtek ALC882M chip, which is one of the most advanced High Definition (192kHz/24bit) codecs for today. Besides eight audio channels and two additional independent channels for headphones, this codec supports the mainboard’s SPDIF input and output. The codec also supports hardware AC3 coding/decoding, thus allowing to use the ASUS N4L-VM DH with Dolby Digital equipment.

The networking opportunities are provided by a Gigabit Ethernet 82573L controller from Intel which is connected via a PCI Express x1 bus.

Besides the functions mentioned earlier in this section, the mainboard supports USB 2.0 and FireWire interfaces. The chipset’s South Bridge is responsible for the mainboard’s eight USB 2.0 ports, four of which are located at the back panel and four more are onboard headers. The FireWire ports are supported by an onboard controller from Texas Instruments: one is on the back panel and the other is a pin-connector on the mainboard. Just to remind you, back-panel brackets with two USB 2.0 and one FireWire port are included with the ASUS N4L-VM DH.

PCB Design

So, the ASUS N4L-VM DH mainboard combines rather rich functionality with the Micro-ATX form-factor. Of course, the developer had to solve a difficult problem of placing all the necessary chips and connectors in the limited area, so we can hardly expect that all the components are placed on the PCB in a manner convenient for the user.

And still, there are very few things about the PCB design of the ASUS N4L-VM DH we can complain about. The main components are all properly located. It is also good that almost all the connectors, including both the power connectors, are placed at the front and left sides of the PCB.

What we don’t like is how the additional Serial ATA controller from JMicron and its ports are placed. One of the controller’s Serial ATA ports is located at the mainboard’s back panel and the other one is near it. As a result, you may find it difficult to use these ports: you need a power source for the external hard drive to use the former and you just don’t have free access to the second port to use it.

The memory slots are located in a somewhat odd way, in between the CPU socket and the mainboard’s back panel. This placement isn’t likely to cause any problems, though.

The CPU socket, memory slots and chipset’s North Bridge are all densely packed in one area of the PCB and so most of the heat generated by the platform (if you use the integrated graphics core) will be accumulated in this area. Since the ASUS N4L-VM DH is meant for use in Viiv systems that are to be small, this looks reasonable. It’s not very difficult to provide for efficient cooling here.

The chipset’s North Bridge is equipped with a massive aluminum heatsink without a fan. The CPU fan included with the mainboard is made of aluminum, too. Considering the low heat dissipation of Core Duo and Core Solo processors (especially in comparison with that of the Pentium D family), it would be unreasonable to use advanced cooling solutions here.

The heatsink of the CPU cooler has a 60x60mm base and 21 ribs, 22 millimeters in height. A 60mm medium-speed fan is installed on top; its maximum speed is 3500rpm. The heatsink’s base is equipped with a frame to protect the die from chipping (the die of modern processors of Core Duo and Core Solo series is not covered by a heat-spreader).

The cooler is fastened in a non-standard way: a spring-loaded clip is hitched on the two juts on the mainboard on both sides of the CPU socket. As a result, it is going to be difficult to install any other cooler on the ASUS N4L-VM DH.

Besides the graphical PCI Express x16 slot, the mainboard has one PCI Express x1 and two ordinary PCI slots. The PCI Express x1 is located on the left of the graphical slot and will be blocked if you install a high-performance graphics card with a dual-slot cooler.

The ASUS N4L-VM DH uses a three-channel CPU voltage regulator. A 4-pin 12V ATX connector, rarely seen on modern mainboards, is used to power up the CPU.

Well, you don’t actually need an advanced voltage regulator here. Core Duo and Core Solo processors are among the most economical processors today with a TDP of only 31W.

By the way, the low power consumption of modern Socket 479 processors makes it possible to use a low-wattage power supply with the ASUS N4L-VM DH mainboard as well as with similar mainboards from other manufacturers. For example, a 150W power supply would suffice if you use the integrated graphics core. If you install an external graphics card into the system, a 250W PSU should be enough. So even if the Viiv platform with the Core Duo processor doesn’t become the best in terms of performance, it is surely superior in terms of power consumption and noise.

The back panel of the ASUS N4L-VM DH has a standard layout. The only questionable element is the Serial ATA port that is not accompanied with an appropriate power connector for the attached Serial ATA drive. Besides the Serial ATA port, the mainboard’s back panel offers you two PS/2 ports for the mouse and keyboard, four USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire port, a network RJ45 port with two diagnostic LEDs, six audio jacks, coaxial and optical SPDIF inputs, and a D-Sub connector for the monitor.

BIOS and Overclocking

The ASUS N4L-VM DH was tested with the latest version BIOS as of the time of my writing this review (version 303 dated April 25, 2005),

The BIOS of the ASUS N4L-VM DH mainboard is based on AMI’s microcode and has the same setup interface as other AMI-based BIOS Setups. You can configure the system’s main units here, but that’s not very interesting.

We were more curious about the overclocking options provided by the mainboard, but were somewhat disappointed on that point. Positioned by its manufacturer as a multimedia entertainment center, the mainboard lacks a bulk of overclocking-related options in its current BIOS versions.

In fact, the BIOS Setup only allows changing the FSB frequency, but you have no control over the voltage and frequency multiplier of the CPU. And even this adjustment of the FSB frequency doesn’t work too well. The default FSB frequency of Socket 479 Core Duo and Core Solo processors is 166MHz, but the maximum FSB frequency the ASUS N4L-VM DH remains stable at is only 182MHz. The mainboard just refuses to start up at a higher FSB clock rate.

Besides the option of adjusting the FSB frequency, even though in a very limited range, the mainboard allows changing the voltage of the memory modules. Not quite clearly what for, the BIOS Setup can increase this voltage from the default 1.8V to 2.1V. Besides that, you can manually set up the memory timings here. The memory frequency, however, cannot be changed. It is always set up automatically depending on the SPD information written in the installed DDR SDRAM modules.

All of this means that the ASUS N4L-VM DH mainboard isn’t a playground for overclockers. For example, we could only manage to speed up our Core Duo T2600 from its default 2.16GHz to 2.37GHz by increasing the FSB frequency to the maximum of 182MHz.

So, the maximum frequency growth you can achieve on this mainboard is 10% only – not quite what an overclocker would be satisfied with.

Regrettably, Intel’s Viiv platform is not meant for overclocking at all while the manufacturers of mainboards for multimedia computers do not expect such products can attract PC enthusiasts.

Other parameters are important for the Viiv platform; quiet operation and low power consumption are among them. No wonder the ASUS N4L-VM DH is equipped with technologies of quite another kind.

Having rather low power consumption, Core Duo and Core Solo processors also support a number of special technologies to reduce it even more. For example, Intel’s Enhanced SpeedStep allows down-clocking the CPU when its load is low. This technology is fully supported by the reviewed mainboard.

Besides that, the ASUS N4L-VM DH supports Q-Fan technology which adjusts the speed of the CPU cooler depending on the CPU temperature. There are three behavior modes of this technology: optimal, quiet and performance. You can choose any mode you like depending on the system case you install this mainboard into.

Another interesting feature of this Viiv-compatible mainboard is its support for Energy Lake technology. This technology is enabled in the BIOS Setup and allows quickly turning the system on and off (after the OS has booted up) with a single button, like you do with your TV-set or DVD player.

This “quick shutdown” feature is controlled in Windows from a special tab in the Power Options Properties window.

Note that the computer can perform some tasks that don’t require user intervention when in Away mode.

Software

ASUS’s mainboard always come with a big software pack, and the ASUS N4L-VM DH is not an exception. There are at least two interesting utilities on the CD you receive with this mainboard.

PC Probe

This is a Windows-based hardware monitoring utility:

ASUS Update

This Windows-based program can automatically update the mainboard’s BIOS. The version of the utility you receive with the ASUS N4L-VM DH cannot update the BIOS directly from the Internet – only from a file on your hard drive.

ASUS doesn’t offer any programs to control the FSB frequency from Windows, i.e. for overclocking. Instead, the software CD included with the N4L-VM DH contains a utility to change the image shown during the POST procedure and an exclusive ASUS screensaver.

Closer Look at Core Duo T2600

In this article we are going to compare dual-core processors with different architectures: Athlon 64 X2, Core Duo and Pentium D. Therefore we decided to take the top models from all three processor families for our test session. The fastest CPU in the Intel Core Duo family at the time of testing was Core Duo T2600 with the nominal clock speed of 2.16GHz. It will be our today’s second main character after ASUS N4L-VM DH in our today’s review.

Core Duo T2600 processor is based on Yonah core, features 2MB L2 cache shared between the two cores and was manufactured with 65nm process. The CPU works with 667MHz bus and its nominal core voltage lies between 1.25V and 1.4V when it runs at nominal frequency. The maximum typical heat dissipation of the Core Duo T2600 processor is 31W, just like any other CPUs from the same family. You can read more about the architectural peculiarities of the Core Duo processor in our article called Centrino Duo Mobile Platform Review. Today we will just give you a brief list of its major characteristics:

Core Duo T2600

Frequency

2.16GHz

Packaging

478 pin PPGA

Vcore

1.25V - 1.4V

Bus frequency

667MHz

Typical heat dissipation

31W

Core stepping

C0

Maximum case temperature

100o C

L2 cache size

2MB

Production process

65nm

Hyper- Threading ( HT)

No

Intel Enhanced Memory 64 Technology (EM64T)

No

Enhanced Intel SpeedStep (EIST)

Yes

Intel Virtualization Technology (VT)

Yes

The Centrino Duo processor looks somewhat unusual. The thing is that mobile processors come without the top heat-spreader lid protecting the die against mechanical damage. However, end users do not usually deal with the installation of mobile CPUs, so they do not really need the protective heat-spreader.

The diagnostic CPU-Z utility reports the following info about the Core Duo T2600 processor:

Here I would only like to add that in power saving mode the clock speed of the Intel Core Duo T2600 processor drops down to 1GHz and the Vcore – down to 0.95V.

Testbed and Methods

Our major task was to compare the performance of systems built with dual-core processors of different architectures. Therefore, we assembled three test platforms around the top-of-the-line Athlon 64 X2, Core Duo and Pentium D CPUs. All these processors belong to the same price group and cost $600.

The testbeds we used were built using the following hardware components:

The tests were conducted with the mainboards BIOS set to the maximum performance.

Here I would like to add two things. Firstly, when we tested the dual-core processor built on the NetBurst architecture, we used the Pentium D 960 working at 3.6GHz that hasn’t been officially announced yet at the time of testing. We selected this particular CPU, because it was due to be released any day and the previous model, the Pentium D 950, dropped down in price and was selling for $350-$400, so it couldn’t be regarded as a fair competitor to Core Duo T2600.

Secondly, we decided that we wouldn’t use any Nvidia based graphics cards in our test platforms, because ForceWare drivers still have quite a few unsolved issues in systems with dual-core processors. Unfortunately, the results from using ForceWare drivers in these systems may be quite unpredictable. Therefore, from now on we equip our testbeds with ATI Radeon X1900 XTX graphics card from PowerColor.

Performance

Synthetic Benchmarks: PCMark05, 3DMark06 and ScienceMark 2.0

First of all we decided to check the performance of our testing participants in popular synthetic benchmarks.

The performance of Intel Core Duo T2600 processor in PCMark05 was not as high as that of the competitor solutions. However, the performance difference between the top processors of the considered families was not that huge anyway.

In 3DMark06 Core Duo T2600 based platform managed to show pretty good results: it outperformed the system based on Pentium D 960 and is just a little bit behind Athlon 64 X2 4800+.

Core Duo is slightly behind the rivals in the CPU benchmark from the same 3DMark06, although the gap is insignificant in this case.

Relatively slow floating-point unit is one of the bottlenecks of Intel P6 architecture. Unfortunately, the dual-core Core Duo processor inherited this drawback, too. As a result, Core Duo showed very modest results in ScienceMark 2.0.

General Performance

We tested the general performance in office and digital content creation applications with the help of SYSMark 2004 SE benchmarking suite, which also uses multi-threading very actively.

In digital content creation tasks Core Duo T2600 performs very well. Its results are 5% higher than those of Pentium D 960 and it falls only 1.5% behind the leader – AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+.

Unfortunately, we don’t see anything like that in typical office applications. Core Duo T2600 is an outsider here. It loses to both: Pentium D 960 as well as Athlon 64 X2 4800+.

Audio and Video Encoding

Audio and video encoding tasks are far from the strengths of the mobile Core Duo processor. It was defeated by the desktop products during encoding of all types that we used in this test session. Its slow results in applications of this type are determined by slow processing of FPU and SSE instructions that are actively used for streaming operations on multimedia data.

Image and Video Editing

Core Duo T2600 processor working at 2.16GHz performs very well in a popular graphics editor – Adobe Photoshop. It is slightly ahead of Pentium D 960 working at 1.5 times higher clock speed of 3.6GHz and is just a tiny bit behind the Athlon 64 X2 4800+ with 2.4GHz clock rate.

Unfortunately, Intel Core Duo failed to repeat its Adobe Photoshop success in Adobe Premiere pro application. It falls noticeably behind the desktop rivals here. And the reasons are evidently the same as in case of simple video and audio encoding.

3ds max 7 and Maya

Strange as it might seem, but 3ds max turns out a true success story for the mobile Core Duo T2600 processor. Its performance is the highest in viewports, and during final rendering it falls just a little bit behind the leader – Athlon 64 X2 4800+.

The situation is the same during final rendering in another similar application – Maya 7.0. Core Duo T2600 outperforms Pentium D 960 by almost 25% and is just a little bit slower than Athlon 64 X2 4800+. So, we can conclude that Core Duo can be very attractive for 3D modeling tasks.

Other Applications

Since it is extremely interesting to compare the performance of the Core Duo processor against the desktop CPUs, we decided to add a few more widely spread programs to our list of tests.

The 7-zip archiving tool that supports multi-threading quite efficiently we measured the data compression and decompression speeds.

Core Duo cannot boast high results here. We were especially upset about the low data compression speed, where our hero fell far behind the competitors.

Optical text recognition speed was measured with the popular ABBYY Finereader 8.0 suite.

In this application Core Duo surprised us with its superior performance having finished the task sooner than Pentium D 960 and Athlon 64 X2 4800+.

We have also tested our platforms in a popular computer algebra tool aka Mathematica. The new version of this application can now take advantage of the potential offered by multi-core processors.

Core Duo T2600 outperforms Athlon 64 X2 4800+ but falls far behind Pentium D 960 in this task.

3D Games

The situation is pretty similar in all 3D applications. Core Duo is a faster gaming CPU than Pentium D, however it is still behind the today’s performance leader – Athlon 64 X2.

Power Consumption Tests

I don’t think we should expect Core Duo to surprise us here. Since this CPU was initially designed for mobile platforms, it boasts much lower heat dissipation and power consumption than any of the desktop processors. So, even before we announce the actual benchmark results, we can be sure that our today’s main hero – Intel Core Duo T2600 – will prove much more economical than Intel Pentium D 960 or Athlon 64 X2 4800+. However, if you still need to know the exact numbers, take a look at the charts below.

As always, we used a special S&M utility to measure the maximum power consumption (you can download this utility here). We measured the current that goes through the CPU power circuitry. So, the numbers given below do not take into account the efficiency of the CPU voltage regulator laid out on the mainboard.

Intel Core Duo T2600 mobile processor consumes only 24W under 100% load, which is a simply amazing result. While the performance of this CPU is quite comparable to that of Pentium D 960 and Athlon 64 4800+, it consumes 4-5 times less power. So, dual-core mobile processors will be a great choice for a quiet and economical system.

Besides the power consumption tests performance under full workload, we have also tested our platforms in idle mode. The numbers given below were obtained without any power-saving technologies, such as Cool’n’Quiet or SpeedStep enabled.

The situation hasn’t changed. Core Duo is a highly economical processor, no doubt. By the way, when we enabled Enhanced Intel SpeedStep on Core Duo, the power consumption in idle mode dropped down to 2W.

So, if we analyze the results of our testing participants from the “performance per watt” prospective, then the absolute leadership of our hero will definitely be indisputable. This is one of the primary reasons why Core Duo processors found their way into Intel Viiv platforms.

Conclusion

So, thanks to ASUS N4L-VM DH mainboard we have just got acquainted with one of Intel Viiv platforms based on the mobile Core Duo CPU. Our investigation allows us to draw a few very interesting conclusions.

First of all, I have to state that hardware enthusiasts may find Viiv platform very appealing. This concept allows us to build a fully-fledged desktop system on an originally mobile CPU. So, Viiv breaks the stereotypes and erases the line between desktop and mobile systems.

Secondly, if mainboards similar to ASUS N4L-VM DH become more widely spread, the users get more choices for their platforms. Our tests showed that mobile CPUs can cope very well with desktop workload and at the same time boast a few indisputable advantages over the desktop solutions such as low heat dissipation and power consumption. In other words, ASUS N4L-VM DH mainboard with Intel Core Duo processor is a great choice for an economical and quiet mainstream system. From this standpoint no desktop platform can compete with the victorious tandem.

Unfortunately, ASUS N4L-VM DH mainboard we have reviewed today is not absolutely flawless. Very poor overclocking options offered by this platform didn’t let us investigate the overclocking potential of the Core Duo processor. And the common sense suggests that this processor should be very overclockable. Maybe the overclocking potential of the Core Duo processor could make it an even more attractive solution, than what we have seen today.

However, even the results obtained at nominal frequencies were pretty remarkable. Intel Core Duo processor doesn’t set the world on fire, it cannot be called a pure performance leader. In most cases it yields to some desktop solutions. However, the performance gap is not dramatic at all. Its low heat dissipation and power consumption make up for slightly lower performance. Moreover, Core Duo runs quite fast in a number of applications. It wins in such tasks as final rendering and outperforms the dual-core NetBurst based CPU in games.

Nevertheless, Core Duo has a few more important drawbacks. To our regret it doesn’t support 64-bit extensions that should become essential in 2007 when Windows Vista comes out. This issue makes the use of Socket 479 platforms for desktop segment less appealing. However, I wouldn’t give way to despair: the new Intel processor aka Conroe is just a few months ahead. And it is going to inherit all the strengths of the current Core Duo processor, will acquire 64-bit extensions support and will offer higher performance. And it will definitely turn it into a sales hit.