New Desktops: Pentium M Inside
Though it was developed primarily to minimize power consumption, the Pentium M mobile chip has always been an excellent performer. Clock cycle for clock cycle, it's on a par with the Athlon 64 and is much faster than a Pentium 4, and PCs using it run quieter because it needs fewer fans. For computers that stay on all day or even most of the day, the power-saving potential is substantial, and such quieter systems might persuade some users to place them in their living rooms. Given those facts, it might seem odd that before AOpen and DFI, no one thought to bring out a Pentium M desktop motherboard.
We tested the $965 AOpen EY855-II XC Cube system with the 1.7-GHz Pentium M, AOpen's i855GMEm-LFS board, 512MB of RAM, an 80GB hard disk, and integrated graphics. It earned a score of 75 on WorldBench 5, which is on the lower side of average for laptops in this CPU class, but about on a par with 2.8-GHz Pentium 4 desktops. Note, too, that, like DFI's 855GME-MGF board, AOpen's model currently uses the older Pentium M chip set, which lacks some recent improvements to the Pentium M platform, including support for dual-channel DDR2 memory and the PCI Express bus.
Though good performers, Pentium M desktops are a bit of a hard sell because of their cost. For about the same price as the AOpen Cube, you can get a PC with a 3-GHz P4, faster discrete PCI Express graphics, a similar or slightly bigger hard drive, and a monitor or LCD flat panel thrown in, plus speakers. Even if you build your own system, you'll still be paying $100 to $250 more for a Pentium M chip than for a high-end Pentium 4 or Athlon 64 chip, and over $100 more for a motherboard to go with it.
There is another alternative: You can now get Asus's CT-479 upgrade adapter for your older, 400-MHz or 533-MHz Pentium 4 motherboard and drop in Pentium M chips from 1.3-GHz to 2.26-GHz. You're still not getting PCI Express, but it may be a more appealing option since you're reusing components.