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Intel's 'BTX' Motherboard Debuts on Gateway's PC

Intel's next-generation motherboard design has made its debut in a new Gateway desktop, the company said today.

The Gateway 700GR is built on Intel's highly anticipated Balanced Technology Extended (BTX) architecture. While not made specifically for PC-enthusiasts, the system features an advanced cooling system that can handle high-speed processors as well as the fastest and most power-hungry graphics and add-in cards and hard drives.

First highlighted at last year's Intel Developers Forum (IDF), BTX was developed as a follow-on to the widely used ATX form factor. Intel expects to eventually replace ATX as the industry standard.

Introduced in 1995, ATX has run into some trouble as computing technology has evolved. One problem is that ATX could scale up well but not down, making it difficult for smaller form factors. ATX is also expensive to cool, makes more noise and is often complex to design. The board designs also have limited support for heavy heatsinks .

BTX solves the heat problem with high-power components that use the same in-line, high-velocity, and low-temperature airflow. Above and below motherboard airflow helps improve voltage regulation and socket capability. The sound is quieter because only two fans are required. Because of their large size, the fans can spin at 40 percent slower speeds.

"Customers will want to look into systems based on the new BTX motherboards," Roger Kay, market analyst and vice president of client computing at research firm IDC, said. "The BTX is designed for better airflow over the hottest parts, including the processor, memory, the graphics accelerator and core logic. With a BTX board, systems can be cooled with fewer, larger, slower -- therefore quieter -- fans. A cooler chassis results in greater reliability at a given performance level. And the BTX motherboard can support future generations of graphics and other add-in cards, an investment protection benefit."

The BTX-based motherboard layout differs significantly from ATX/microATX, and requires designs built specifically for BTX. For sizing down the motherboard to smaller form factors, Intel is adopting two different designs: a picoBTX with up to 1 add-in card slot and a microBTX with up to 4 add-in card slots. The two designs will complement the regular BTX, which supports up to seven add-in card slots.

Intel expects to offer boxed processors with BTX Type I Thermal Modules and microBTX-based boxed desktop boards in the channel starting this quarter. The chipmaking giant is considering offering boxed processors with improved Type II thermal modules in 2005. The company will likely update the progress of its BTX designs during next month's IDF.

Ed Fisher, Gateway's senior vice president of product planning, said he's ecstatic to be the first one on the OEM block to have a BTX design under one of his machines.

"Right now, the hottest PC trends -- namely gaming and digital media hobbies -- are the ones that require the most power to enjoy and create the most heat inside the PC," Fisher said in a statement. "Our new 700GR combats this issue with a significant step forward in PC design. The cool and quiet operation, combined with all the latest technology, will result in unsurpassed performance and consistently reliable operation."

The initial BTX-based Gateway desktop starts at $1,199.99 and comes standard with Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition. The system runs on a Pentium 4 550 and includes Intel's 915G chipset (PCI Express technology, Hyper Threading, and Intel High Definition Audio). The system also houses an ATI RADEON X300SE PCI-Express 128MB graphics card, integrated Gigabit (10/100/1000) Ethernet, and an 8X DVD+/-RW multi-format drive that uses new dual-layer DVD that could fit a four-hour MPEG-2 movie a single DVD.

The 700GR also kicks off Gateway's new life as a retail brand that can be found in stores like CompUSA and Office Depot. The company recently closed out its own retail sites in a massive restructuring announced this year.

Dell, IBM and HP are all expected to follow Gateway's suit with the new BTX technology.