No combination of component changes and BIOS settings worked up until today. A new BIOS released by Intel in the last day or so fixed the compatibility issues!
So, we were finally greeted with this Windows System Assessment right after install:
I reran the Windows System Assessment Tool to verify the initial findings:
We ended up with a final score of 2.1 for Aero and 3.0 for 3D Graphics. Not a great score, but it will work.
We have now confirmed first hand the the Intel onboard 945 chipset based graphics can indeed run Windows Aero with no real issues.
What a relief!
Microsoft Small Business Specialists