Two New Ions: ASUS AT3N7A-I and ASRock Ion 330by Anand Lal Shimpi on August 28, 2009 12:00 AM EST
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Sidebar: ASRock Ion 330
Although today is all about ASUS’ entry into the Ion world with the AT3N7A-I, it’s also about picking your perfect Ion platform. I decided to round up the three Ion boards/systems currently on the market and compare them all as we evaluate the ASUS.
The Zotac Ion you already know about, we’ve covered it extensively and more recently looked at its latest PCB revision. The Ion platform you haven’t seen on AnandTech is ASRock’s Ion 330.
Unlike the ASUS and Zotac solutions, the ASRock Ion 330 is a complete system. For $379.99 you get a mini-ITX case, power supply, 2GB of memory, DVD drive and a 320GB hard drive - in addition to the ASRock Ion board. To give you an idea of scale I set the ASRock Ion 330 next to a standard 3.5” hard drive:
So, so sweet and small.
On the back of the ASRock Ion you get a healthy serving of 6 USB ports, VGA out, HDMI out, an Ethernet jack, three 1/8” audio jacks and optical audio out. There’s also a connector for the external 65W DC power supply. Despite this being 2009, there are no ports on the front of the chassis; it does keep things clean, but slightly inconvenient at the same time.
Inside there’s not much to see at first glance. Two screws hold the top cover on, removing them and sliding the cover back reveals the removable carrier that holds the slimline DVD drive and 2.5” HDD:
ASRock sent us the significantly more baller Ion 330-BD model, which forgoes the DVD drive for a slimline Blu-ray drive. The impact on price shouldn’t go unnoticed as the drive costs around $200 more than the standard DVD drive.
The slimline drive uses a mini-SATA power connector instead of standard SATA power. It’s supplied power somewhat crudely by a 4-pin 5V header on the motherboard that splits off and feeds both the optical drive and HDD.
The hard drive is a standard 2.5” notebook drive. In this case it’s a 320GB Seagate Momentus 5400.6.
Below the drive carrier lies the motherboard itself and its two-fan cooling solution. A very small fan up front keeps the Atom processor cool. A larger fan in the back moves air around the rest of the chassis. The NVIDIA GPU doesn’t have a fan directly mounted to its heatsink and instead relies on the two fans to move heat off of its fins.
The smaller, and quieter CPU fan
The larger, and louder chassis fan
I hate to spoil the surprise, but the ASRock Ion 330 is built off of the same hardware as the ASUS and Zotac boards. You get a 1.6GHz dual-core Atom 330 combined with a NVIDIA GeForce 9300/9400M chipset. The result? Nearly identical performance.
The ASRock is nice from a convenience standpoint, all you do is buy the machine and load an OS on it. The major issues with it are a fan that isn’t silent (more on this later), and the fact that if you want to use an SSD in the machine you’re out $70 since it comes with a non-optional 2.5” HDD.