Cooling the Zotac Ion

I made it a point to talk about the fanless design of the Zotac Ion in my original review. For most of my tests I had a fan connected (just so I could tell when my otherwise silent machine was on), but I did test the system without a fan connected.

On a table with no active airflow over the heatsink, the latest version of CoreTemp showed temperatures in the 80 - 97C range - which are extremely high. Earlier versions of CoreTemp showed the CPU temperature at 60 - 70C, so it’s possible that neither value is correct. One of my first experiences with the Atom processor was it running Unreal Tournament 2004 without a heatsink or fan, I could actually touch the CPU core itself and it wasn’t hot at all. I’m guessing that the majority of thermal output here is from the GeForce 9300 or Ion chipset. Keep in mind that Intel’s own Atom mini-ITX boards have an extremely tiny heatsink on the CPU.

Without a fan the Zotac heatsink does get hot, but I haven’t had the machine crash on me without a fan running. I’m guessing that in a case with a single, slow spinning fan you should be fine. Given that a single hard drive can put out nearly as much heat as the Atom CPU, if you don’t have a solid state drive in your machine I might suggest mounting the optional fan.

With the fan running I saw temperatures below 30C as reported by CoreTemp and the heatsink was cool to the touch.

NVIDIA’s own ESA utility was not able to tell me the temperature of the GPU, but I’m fairly certain that’s where the heat is coming from. Since it shares a heatsink with the CPU, that’s most likely what’s responsible for the very high core temperatures.

Overclocking the Atom Processor Blu-ray and Gaming Power Consumption
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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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