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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  • Titanius - Friday, August 28, 2009 - link

    "While Acer offers the Aspire Revo, it only comes with a single-core Atom 230, a far less desirable option."

    What about the Acer Aspire Revo R3600? It has an Intel Atom 330, a 160GB HD and 2 GB of Dual-Channel RAM. Check it out: http://www.ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=41924&a...">http://www.ncix.com/products/index.php?...&man...
    Reply
  • Fietsventje - Friday, August 28, 2009 - link

    A pitty, no network interface benchmarks. Despite the overkill of the nVidia GPU, these boards would make the ideal start of a limited home server, and transferring files at gigabit speeds is no small feat for such a small processor ... Reply
  • mgrier - Friday, August 28, 2009 - link

    Do you have data to support this? Between DMA both to the drive and the NIC and TCP checksum offloading, the CPU overhead of disk transfers should be minimal with an operating system and drivers that support all of the above. Assuming a single drive configuration, you should mostly be limited by transfer rate of the drive for large files. For smaller files, you should be limited by the drive's seek latency. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, August 29, 2009 - link

    I'm not so sure it's the HDD CPU overhead so much as network drivers. I'd imaging these Atom CPUs could use a good 30-50% of the CPU for doing Gb transfers. However, as you are limited by the HDD to a maximum ~50MBps (unless you go SSD or at least a 7200RPM drive), you should probably only need 15-25% of the CPU. Would be interesting to see the results though. At least the Ion systems give you GbE, unlike all the netbooks I've tested. Reply
  • cliffman - Friday, August 28, 2009 - link

    I am interested in seeing the performance of a mini-itx board that can support a quad core system. You can build a modern system for $500 instead of paying $350 for an atom system. Reply
  • MadMan007 - Sunday, August 30, 2009 - link

    Considering those use any one of the regular LGA775 (atm - maybe we'll see some LGA1156 mITX boards) chipsets unless the board is just done poorly the performance would be the same as a full system with the same chipset and CPU. You'd just have the obvious tradeoff of expansion and possibly overclocking/enthusiast features. Reply
  • plext0r - Friday, August 28, 2009 - link

    You mention the Acer Aspire Revo on the last page. Any word when and if Acer will release this box in the US? A single-core 230 is plenty of CPU horsepower for XBMC or MythTV when using Nvidia's binary drivers. Thanks!
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Friday, August 28, 2009 - link

    Hey, finally an Atom board with analog connections for more channels. Maybe I'll eventually replace the LF2 board in my carputer with this (and just keep the Scythe fan I already have). Reply
  • gipper - Friday, August 28, 2009 - link

    Why in the world can't people just use bigger fixtures and bigger fans?

    It's like the xbox 360. Who cares if it's smaller than my receiver, it's A FREAKING JET ENGINE. Why can't they just bump the size up a bit and throw in a 120mm fan?

    With these, what's wrong with bumping up the chasis to xbox1 size and going with a slower 80mm fan which will probably deliver more air flow at 800rpm than these 40mm fans at 6500rpm.

    I can't believe that project leaders haven't caught on to this issue yet. They must have their quality assurance guys working in different rooms than the products they're testing, or they're testing them in the middle of the factory.
    Reply
  • Abby - Wednesday, September 2, 2009 - link

    For Manufacturing, Transportation and profits wise, small is da key. Reply

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