Board Layout and Features

The Core Duo processors have been around for nearly 6 months now, so why all the fuss today?  Well, only recently have motherboards become available for the desktop and DIY market that have support for the Core Duo pin-out.  Now a user can go to an online e-tailer, order a motherboard, a Core Duo processor, and some DDR2 memory and build themselves a desktop PC or HTPC out of the components with the best performance per watt available today. 

The Asus N4L-VM DH motherboard was the first model to reach our testing table that supported this architecture and has many features that would make it an outstanding quiet gaming PC or home theater computer as we’ll see in analysis.

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The N4L-VM is a micro-ATX motherboard that doesn’t appear to have high-end enthusiast written on it anywhere; and that’s not far from the truth.  With a smaller PCB, much of the glitter has to be left off in favor space and heat concerns.

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The processor socket should look pretty familiar, even though the 478-pins of this processor are not compatible with any other processors from the past including the Pentium M and Pentium 4 processors.  There are two hooks on either side of the processor socket used for installing the heatsink on the Core Duo processor that is also included with the motherboard from Asus.  With no real standards for Core Duo heatsinks, Asus opted to include a heatsink and custom mounting mechanism.

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This picture showing the stock AMD Athlon 64 heatsink on the right and the Core Duo heatsink on the left clearly shows how much less cooling the CPU needs compared to even the most efficient offerings from AMD’s desktop lineup. 

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After installation on the motherboard, the heatsink looks even smaller, not much bigger than the passive heatsink cooling the 945GM north bridge chip.  The capacitor spacing is more than adequate, and I didn’t have any installation issues to speak of; it was all straight forward and easy to accomplish. 

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