Final Words

With projects like XBMC that can harness the power of NVIDIA's GPU in Ion, we're starting to see real usage models for these systems. While I could build a faster HTPC, I'm not sure I could build a more efficient one than what I get from Ion. And let this serve as a warning to Intel: Pine Trail needs to be just as easy to setup and use as Ion. I don't want to see another G45 launch repeat in 2010.

At the start of this year I expected to see more Ion platforms than three for the DIY market. There have been a handful of significant releases in the netbook and nettop category from OEMs like Acer and Samsung, but for the most part Ion has been quieter than expected.

That being said, with three real competitors in the DIY market we do actually have a decent set of options to choose from.

If you want a pre-built system and have no components of your own that you’d like to re-use, the ASRock Ion 330 is your only option. While Acer offers the Aspire Revo, it only comes with a single-core Atom 230, a far less desirable option. The ASRock is well built and my only complaint is the distinct noise of the rear fan. Although the fan is quiet, you do hear the motor if you’re close to the machine. Stick it in a closet or play a movie and it won’t really matter.

Then there’s the issue of price, you do pay a premium (around $40) for ASRock to assemble this thing for you. And you get no flexibility in the components chosen. As I wrote earlier in the review, a good SSD really helps mask the poor performance of the Atom. You’d have to ebay (or repurpose) the 320GB HDD that ships with the ASRock Ion in order to make the jump to an SSD without wasting money.

If you want to build your own, until ASUS gets us a sample with a quieter fan, it looks like Zotac is the way to go. It’s clear that the ASUS board was an early sample and hopefully the shipping product will be significantly quieter. I’d prefer if ASUS went to a larger, slower spinning fan but as long as it can get quieter I’ll be happy. As soon as ASUS can get us a sample with the final fan design we’ll retest and follow up as necessary.

I took for granted much of what made Zotac’s design work, but it’s clear that effort was made to make that board what it is. If you’re buying today and just want a motherboard, Zotac is the way to go. In the near future? If the fan issues get sorted out, it looks like you’ll have another option with ASUS.

Using the ASUS Ion in Windows 7 and Linux/XBMC
POST A COMMENT

61 Comments

View All Comments

  • 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

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now