AOpen i855 GMEm-LFS review

£127
Price when reviewed

Arriving in microATX format and measuring just 245mm on a side, the board would make an ideal starting point for a small, quiet and unobtrusive server or media system. Pentium M aside, the board is kitted out very much as you’d expect a compact desktop board to be. It takes standard DDR SDRAM, although only two sockets are available. That said, there would be limited benefit to kitting out a board like this with more than 1GB of memory. As well as floppy and two parallel ATA/100 channels, you get two Serial ATA connectors too, with RAID0 and 1 capability.

AOpen i855 GMEm-LFS review

For use as an Internet gateway or firewall, a system needs two network adaptors – one for the WAN and one for the LAN – and the i855 comes kitted out with dual networking. You get one Intel Fast Ethernet adaptor for the WAN plus a Marvell gigabit adaptor for the LAN side. The rest of the backplane sports PS/2 mouse and keyboard connectors, serial and parallel ports, the VGA output, four USB 2 connectors and analog audio jacks. Just about the only thing it lacks is a FireWire port, but there’s a FireWire chipset with two headers on the board, plus a header for a further USB port. Finally, there are three conventional PCI slots.

Results-wise, with a 1.6GHz Pentium M and 512MB of PC2700 SDRAM, the board performed more than adequately: its score of 1.59 is plenty for use as a media-centre system or server with a medium load; certainly Internet gateway duties would give it no cause for concern.

Abit’s BP6 was unique: no other manufacturer produced a dual Celeron board. Whether the AOpen is destined to remain a one-off or the flood gates are about to open is hard to guess: we suspect the former, although with the Pentium M barebones system – also from AOpen – perhaps we’ll see a few more dual Celeron systems if the i855 proves popular.

It certainly deserves to: it’s great to see a company innovating and producing a niche product that, while it won’t sell by the million, will be useful for anyone wanting a relatively powerful but quiet system for any purpose.

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