Intel Mini-ITX Boards with embedded Atom CPU

An interesting range of product can be found in Intel’s lineup of Mini-ITX boards with the NM10 chipset. These have an Atom CPU embedded on the board and the price is about the same as a current B75 chipset board like the one I am buying for my new computer. There is quite a lot in favour of upspeccing an old worn out system like my Intel D915GAG which was what I had before the one I have now (the DG41RQ) to something that has years of life left in it and can run the latest OS without too many problems. The NM10 chipset is the first real effort by Intel to make a decent low power system. The Atom appears to be made with embedded in mind, I didn’t see anything that looked like a socketed chip or board looking at Ascent’s web page. The board I settled on is the D2700MUD with 2 SO-DIMM slots for maximum of 4 GB @ DDR3-1066, 1 PCI slot and 1 PCI Express Full Mini slot, onboard VGA and DVI, onboard 5.1 audio, onboard 1Gbps networking, 2 SATA ports and 7 USB 2.0 ports. The specs tell me it is 64 bit capable although this is a moot point with the memory limitation.  The board measures a measly 17 x 17 cm. The kicker is that it will fit into any Micro-ATX chassis as well, because Intel has designed Mini-ITX as a subset of Micro-ATX, meaning the mounting holes, expansion slots and I/O ports are in the same place as the larger board; and its power supply requirements should work with an older ATX12V 1.2 supply like my old computer has. The specs say a 2 x 10 power plug can be used, which is what that Enermax supply has (it works just fine with the D915GAG which has a 2 x 12 socket, like the D2700MUD) and so that is quite a saving in cost to begin with, being able to use an old chassis and its power supply as well.
What do people use these systems for? The typical system of this type is used for home theatre because with no fans needed for cooling, these systems can be extremely quiet. As it happens of course the hard drive and the power supply’s fan will make a bit of noise. In my case I want to use the system for a test platform for work related purposes. Pretty soon I will have a system that can build and run virtual servers. At that point I really also need a desktop I can hook up to a virtual server and test stuff with it. The board costs around $130 at today’s prices and with the 4 GB of RAM being the only other item needed, at around $30, the all up cost is very low and favourable for a brand new system. However its performance won’t be much better than what it replaces and therefore it really is only useful for testing and not really serious work.