The ECS KAM1-I AM1 mini-ITX motherboard and the AMD Athlon 5150 AM1 processor cost me $50 US in 2015. I paid $25 US for the motherboard and $25 US for the processor. A nice little combo for a Linux box to back up my FreeNAS file server.
I got the ASRock Fatal1ty B450 Gaming-ITX/AC AM4 motherboard for $100 US as a replacement. The last cheap B450 AM4 mini-ITX motherboard available in today’s market.
I’ll explain the old AM1 motherboard and the new AM4 motherboard.
ECS KAM1-I Mini-ITX AM1 Motherboard
What made the AM1 motherboard unique was the serial ports. Two built-in serial ports in the I/O panel and two serial port headers on the motherboard. Four serial ports on a motherboard were quite unique. The motherboard only cost $25 US.
If I was to get a replacement motherboard with serial ports, it would be the GigaiPC mITX-4105A. Two built-in serial ports in the I/O panel and four serial port headers on the motherboard. A total of six serial ports. The motherboard has an Intel Celeron quad-core processor and cost $199 US.
What’s the big deal about serial ports?
A motherboard with built-in serial ports running Linux can be a terminal server. If you have a rack of switches and routers, the console ports on those devices can plug into the console server. You can remote into the console server and open a terminal window for any device.
One of these days I’ll put the AM1 motherboard into a rack-mounted server case.
AM1 Hardware Specs
As for the rest of the AM1 hardware, here are the specs:
- Athlon 5150 quad-core processor at 1.6Ghz
- G.Skill 8Gb 1,333MHz DDR3 RAM kit
- Arctic M1 AM1 passive air cooler
- Seagate Barracuda 8TB hard drive
- Adata SP550 120GB 2.5″ SSD
- The Rosewill RD 450Z 450-watt non-modular power supply
- A Cougar QBX mini-ITX case
The AM1 processor was the budget option for the AM2+ and AM3 processors. These budget processors were for lightweight applications like web browsing or command line Linux. The Athlon 5150 was the low-end model that cost $25 US.
Before the AM1 motherboard goes into my junk box, I will test it with the Rosewill PB-240 AIO liquid cooler. I’m going to answer that age old question whether the AM1 processor with a 25-watt TDP ever needed an AIO.
For backing up my FreeNAS file server, the AM1 motherboard and processor was an affordable combo.
Asrock Fatal1ty B450 Gaming-ITX/AC AM4 Motherboard
I wanted to replace the AM1 motherboard with an AM4 motherboard. For the a month, I couldn’t find any cheap B450 AM4 mini-ITX motherboards for $100 US.
Expensive B550 AM4 mini-ITX motherboards for $200 US to $300 US were still available. The B550 chipset won’t run the older processors I have: Athlon 200GE, Athlon 3000G, and Ryzen 7 2700.
The Asrock Fatal1ty B450 Gaming-ITX/AC AM4 motherboard for $100 US became available two weeks ago. I pulled the trigger since this could be the last cheap B450 AM4 mini-ITX motherboard for a while.
AM4 Hardware Specs
I spec’d out the AM4 motherboard like the AM1 motherboard as a drop-in replacement.
- Athlon 200GE (2-core/4-thread) processor at 3.2GHz
- G.Skill Ripjaws V 8GB 2666MHz DDR4 RAM kit
- Arctic Alpine AM4 passive cooler
- Team Group 128GB SATA-3 M.2 SSD
Except for the motherboard, processor and memory, the rest of the case stayed the same.
Wiring the AM4 motherboard required four changes from the AM1 motherboard.
- Plugging in the 8-pin CPU power cable
- Moving the power cable for the 120mm fans from the top connector to the bottom connector
- Removing the USB2 to USB3 adapter to plug in the USB3 cable from the case.
- Removing the serial port bracket since there are no serial port headers.
The only configuration I had to change in Linux was changing the IP address from dynamic to static.