The ASUS A3TB7A-I: Does it Work?

I decided to add this section after the issues with Zotac’s Ion board and not supporting wake on USB. There are several features which any reader would assume work on this board but I thought I’d go through and confirm that they do indeed work as prescribed.

H.264 GPU Acceleration

Yes. This one works and works well. Just like the Zotac board, I had no problems using the ASUS Ion motherboard in a real home theater environment. The lack of an external DC power supply is less convenient when transporting the motherboard around, but the board decoded 1080p H.264 without an issue.

Both original Blu-ray discs and Blu-ray rips worked without a problem. See our Zotac review for instructions on enabling H.264 decode acceleration under Media Player Classic - Home Cinema.

8-channel LPCM

Sort of. One of the core features of NVIDIA’s GeForce 9300/9400 chipset is its support for 8-channel LPCM audio output over HDMI. Don’t know what this is? Read up on it here.

I list this one as sort of because both Gary and I experienced a strange problem with this ASUS board. While we could both get video/audio output when connected directly to a display via HDMI, as soon as we stuck a receiver/preprocessor in between we got no signal at all. My Integra DTC-9.8 would see a signal while the system was POSTing/booting, but as soon as it got into Windows the signal died. Gary saw the same thing with his Denon AVR-3808, Pioneer VSX-94TXH and Yamaha RX-Z11BL.

Gary tried rolling back to an older version of the NVIDIA HDMI driver (1.0.0.42) and was able to get both 5.1/7.1 audio and video working across his receivers, but the latest HDMI drivers would not allow it.

We’ve fed this information back to NVIDIA and hope to see it resolved soon.

Wake on USB

Yes. Unlike the first PCB version of Zotac’s Ion board, ASUS’s Ion will properly come out of sleep whenever there’s a USB event (e.g. mouse click, key/button press).

Bluetooth

Sort of. Unfortunately the Bluetooth controller used on ASUS’ board has no driver support under Windows 7, and the supplied Windows Vista drivers don’t exactly work. If you fool the driver installer into thinking that you’re running Vista then the drivers will install. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to actually use any Bluetooth devices with the PC after pairing; even my Blueant headset wouldn’t work as either a microphone or speaker.

We’ve fed this information back to ASUS and NVIDIA.

Overclocking Using the ASUS Ion in Windows 7 and Linux/XBMC
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  • jwinckelmann - Sunday, September 13, 2009 - link

    Hi,

    at least here in Germany the AT3N7A-I is officially sold with the noisy 6000 RPM fan. Totally unacceptable...

    Bye,
    Jan
    Reply
  • nachtgeist - Sunday, September 6, 2009 - link

    Very usefull rewiev, but i don't understand where is diffenrent between Asus and Zotac board for the 20% power consum diffenrent.
    Asus Express gate looks very good. But the power consum and noise fan is terrible.

    When is poblem? Same CPU, same Chipsets and Asus takes 19W(?) more.
    Reply
  • Abby - Wednesday, September 2, 2009 - link

    A thousand Thaanks on effort writing this article and all the troubleshooting and also all the great help on sending bck faulty reports on behalf of us.

    Your enthusiasm on technology and service were greatly appreciated.
    Thanks again.

    best regards,
    Abby

    THG S**Ks hard~!
    Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Tuesday, September 1, 2009 - link

    Why not just use a celeron E1400 for $40, and maybe even overclock it?

    And yes, I would still trust my $50 ebay P4 865g system over one of these things. 166MHz FSB isnt just stupid, its like a sick joke.
    Reply
  • deegee - Tuesday, September 1, 2009 - link

    > Why not just use a celeron E1400

    The Atom CPU's lower power is the point of these.
    You can also purchase the ITX boards with socket LGA775 or AM2 if you want a faster processor, but at a major increase in power use.

    > I would still trust my $50 ebay P4

    Trust? These are the same components as found on ATX boards, just a smaller form factor at 17cm x 17cm. ITX is designed for smaller size and lower power. Compare it to like buying a Mac Mini.

    > 166MHz FSB

    The Atom units are 533 FSB. Look at the "Rated FSB" value on CPUZ. The Bus Speed will be 1/2 for a two-way and 1/4 for a 4-way interleaved memory system. The regular ATX systems are the same for their FSB. You may wish to dl a copy of CPUZ and run it on your own system to see what the numbers mean.
    Reply
  • deegee - Tuesday, September 1, 2009 - link

    Sorry, fingers working faster than brain and no post edit... :-)
    DDR = double data rate, so 133 clock = 266 DDR freq, 2x interleave = 533 FSB, if I recall.
    Reply
  • deegee - Tuesday, September 1, 2009 - link

    I've been using an Atom PC for my surfing system for quite some time now. It has the Intel 945GCLF2D, 2GB RAM, Kingston 64GB SSDnow, in an Apex MI-008 case. On sale all the parts cost me about $300CDN. The case is 8.5"W x 12.5"D x 5"H (just slightly larger than an APC ES750W brick UPS), supports 2x 3.5" and 1x 5.25", and includes a 250W internal PS. It would work for a HS or HTPC since you could fit an SSD OS drive, a 1-2TB HD, and a DVD.

    I pulled the noisy fan off of the mobo and put a Noctua 80mm fan with the silencer connector (970RPM) blowing across the board from case vent-to-vent. It's so quiet you can hardly tell the system is on (it's half as loud as just a 3.5" HD's noise). The CPU runs at 25C, mobo at 40C. Temps go up by only ~5C under full load in Everest etc.

    I'm running Windows 7RC and Kubuntu on it. Ubuntu (Gnome) is just too slow on the video. KDE performs not bad. But W7RC in Aero performs well, even on the GMA950. It is not as fast as my C2D or C2Q workstations of course, but it does ok for surfing. I also have a HS and HTPC but both of those are using C2D ATX, I personally wouldn't use an Atom for those since I prefer more performance, but for general surfing and a low-power system that I can leave on for downloading I don't care.

    I'll probably upgrade the mobo sometime in the future to get the better video. I really recommend the small size and low noise of the Atom.
    Reply
  • lordmetroid - Monday, August 31, 2009 - link

    I want to build a server/HTPC combo, thing is it will have to be in my home and I can't get proper rest with a fan humming in the background.

    I was thinking, would it be possible to build a completely fanless system using the IONITX-C-U? Using an SSD and the external power brick would give me a system without any moving parts. But what kind of temperatures would such a system generate?
    Reply
  • snarfies - Monday, August 31, 2009 - link

    Asus and Asrock have repeated the exact same mistake that prevented me from considering the Zotac - Only three drive connectors. My MiniITX file server requires four: One for the SD Card reader, one for the optical drive, and two for the RAID1. The only Ion-based board that I know to support four drives is the Point of View Ion 330. Reply
  • strikeback03 - Monday, August 31, 2009 - link

    There are USB headers that can be used for a card reader Reply

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