Watching Flash Video on the Ion

You should never have to worry about your system specs when it comes to watching Flash video. Sites like YouTube and Hulu exist simply because of the large number of PCs that can play Flash video. Can the dual-core Atom 330 in the Zotac Ion-A handle watching video online?

To test this I watched the season finale of 24 on Hulu. I performed three tests: I watched the season finale in its default window at low res, high res (480p) and then full screen.

Thankfully, Adobe’s Flash player appears to be well threaded - all four cores (two physical, two virtual) had parts of the playback task running on them. The first test proved to work just fine:

CPU utilization never hit above 27% and for the most part stayed around 19%.

Next I tried Hulu’s high-res option, which keeps the playback window the same size but increases the resolution to 480p. While CPU utilization jumped to nearly 40%, playback was still smooth. Note that high-res Hulu isn’t smooth on a single-core Atom, the 330 is necessary for a good Hulu experience.

Note that I tested under Google Chrome, however if you use Internet Explorer your CPU utilization will drop a bit.

The experience you get when going full screen in Hulu is very dependent on your desktop resolution. With a 1920 x 1200 desktop resolution, 480p Hulu is unwatchable on the Zotac Ion. CPU utilization maxed out just under 80% and video playback was choppy.

Dropping the desktop resolution to 1280 x 720 made things more bearable, with CPU utilization generally under 50% but it still wasn’t totally smooth. I’m not sure how much of this is Adobe’s fault and how much is the Atom just not being able to keep up, but full screen Flash video playback just isn’t in the cards.

Zotac Ion: 720p Gaming Performance Overclocking the Atom Processor
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  • UltraWide - Thursday, May 21, 2009 - link

    are there full screen playback limitations???

    this is not good news...
  • Pandamonium - Thursday, May 21, 2009 - link

    I'm curious about this myself. I wonder if the scaling is a limitation of the GPU? I just can't see how it would be CPU-bound if usage is below 80%.

    I think all the HTPC users want to know is if this thing is viable for Blu-ray (confirmed), remote power on/off (fingers crossed for Zotac's response), and full screen (1080p and 720p) playback of 720p and 480p flash video (negative at stock speeds). I don't have a Netflix subscription myself, but I imagine people are also interested in knowing what quality stream it can play smoothly.

    I think the holy grail for many HTPC enthusiasts is a quiet/low power machine capable of S3 shutdown/resume via USB, yet powerful enough to handle physical media and streamed media at HD resolutions.

    Could you do a quick followup on the capabilities of the overclocked board? This is very close to what the HTPC crowd has been waiting for.
  • roamer - Wednesday, May 20, 2009 - link


    could anymobody please test the performance of the onboard NIC?
    In another review it was mentioned that the troughput was only 19,5 MB/s. This would be really poor for GbE NIC.
  • flipmode - Wednesday, May 20, 2009 - link

    Anand, your response to feedback is very commendable. You're a class act. Thanks. flipmode.
  • UltraWide - Wednesday, May 20, 2009 - link

    It answered all my lingering questions.

    Now, I am just waiting for this to be in stock anywhere. I have purchased all the other required parts...

    Zotac, hurry up!!!!
  • Basilisk - Wednesday, May 20, 2009 - link

    ... but not directly plugged into the board, that's pretty odd. It's counter-intuitive to me -- shouldn't your KVM be identical to a comparably long USB extension cable? I'm puzzled you didn't write more on the point. I'm curious what other hook-up variations might enable wake-up: extension cables, wall-powered USB hubs, different mice/keyboards. Or... is your KVM, itself, re-shaping the USB signal in some way in some way beyond adding resistance to the wires?!
  • 457R4LDR34DKN07 - Wednesday, May 20, 2009 - link

    I am really kind of interested in seeing the point of view ion board. Then at least you have the option of upgrading the the not so sucky but still integrated video.
  • sprockkets - Tuesday, May 19, 2009 - link

    Zotac's earlier nVidia 7100 boards could not do S3 standby properly; it required a new board revision to fix it.

    Perhaps this board isn't making enough 5VSB for the peripherals.

    Hey Anand, care to stick a Super Talent ssd in the mini pci-e slot to test it?">

  • AmdInside - Wednesday, May 20, 2009 - link

    For what it's worth, I have an HP Slimline PC with nForce 430/Geforce 6150 and also a custom built PC with Asus Geforce 8200 motherboard and both have no problems waking up from USB whether it is wireless keyboard or MCE remote control. I use them both as HTPCs so they go to sleep quite often and are woken up by USB often.
  • lemonadesoda - Tuesday, May 19, 2009 - link

    Did you remember to select, in control panel, mouse, properties, hardware, properties, power management, "allow this device to bring computer out of standby"?

    It is silly this is not set to "true" by default.

    The KVM driver probably HAS this set to true by default.

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