Asus unveils dinky ION 2 motherboard

If you fancy knocking together a dinky, quiet and cheap media centre PC, then Asus' new AT5IONT board could quite happily form the backbone.

The diminutive motherboard measures just 170 x 170mm, meaning it conforms to the Mini-ITX motherboard standard. It comes with a ready-fitted dual-core 1.8GHz Atom D525 chip, which isn't known as a processing powerhouse, but this CPU only has a maximum TDP of 13W, meaning it doesn't need a ridiculous cooling system, or a mammoth power supply.

What's more, on this particular board, Asus has given it a helping hand in the form of an Nvidia ION 2 GPU. Equipped with 16 stream processors and a hardware video acceleration engine, this GPU can happily playback 1080p video, while also providing basic 3D acceleration.

The GPU and CPU are both sat under a large heatsink, which features three heatpipes, one of which takes the heat directly out of the case via the motherboard's backplate. The whole system is passively cooled, so you won't have to suffer any fan noise either.

All the other essentials for a small HTPC are provided, including a pair of SATA ports, plus HDMI and DVI video outputs. Meanwhile, audio can be output via an optical S/P-DIF, or via the 7.1-channel analogue jack sockets.

There's sadly no full-size PCI-E graphics slot, but it's unlikely that you'd want to pair up a high-power graphics card with an otherwise limited system anyway. However, there is a four-lane PCI-E slot available for expansion cards, as well as a pair of SODIMM sockets for adding memory.

On the back, you'll also find four USB ports, two of which support USB 3 via an NEC controller chip. Meanwhile, an eSATA port enables you to hook up a fast external hard drive.

Asus tells us that the board should be doing the rounds in the UK shortly, at a cost of around £125 inc VAT.