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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  • jimbolicious - Wednesday, September 23, 2009 - link

    i purchased a Zotac IONITX-D-E from Newegg a couple of weeks ago and am currently running it as a low power secondary system for the Mozart TX in the living room. it has no problems waking from usb with the diNovo Edge. as a matter of fact it even wakes when i put the keyboard in the charger (kind of annoying there, but it does work... i've found the trick is to turn the keyboard off and get it into the cradle before the system is completely asleep).

    i am noticing that Core Temp shows the CPU at around 67 to 70 degrees C with the CPU fan attached and running, but the heat sink is very cool to the touch.

    flash video is pretty darn flaky in my limited experimentation (luckily, i don't watch it very often).

    i am running Windows 7 Professional with 2 x 2GB of DDR2 800 and a 1TB WD Green and for the most part, this thing is pretty darn snappy... well, snappier than i thought it'd be, anyhow.

    thanks for the article! i found it very informative!
  • apanloco - Saturday, May 30, 2009 - link

    Can you boot this board from a USB stick? The manual only states hard-drive and cd-rom, but I doubt they've missed out on something that fundamental :)
  • jimbolicious - Wednesday, September 23, 2009 - link

    i used a usb drive to load Windows 7 Professional onto mine and it worked fine.
  • Namratalouver - Monday, May 25, 2009 - link

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  • estyx - Thursday, May 21, 2009 - link

    I have been in contact with Zotac, because I want to use a mini-PCIe SSD disk to keep it small and silent, and it turns out the BIOS doesn't support booting via mini-PCIe. At least not yet. I'm waiting for an answer from them if they will include it in a later BIOS version.
    So now you know that :) If there is any interest I can keep you updated on the matter.
  • icrf - Thursday, May 21, 2009 - link

    I'm curious, why use a PCIe SSD when there are three SATA ports available? Is space/power that big of a concern?
  • snarfies - Tuesday, June 9, 2009 - link

    My mini-ITX NAS uses four drive connections. I boot from a CF-Card reader. I have two drives set up as RAID1. I have an optical drive. As near as I can tell, the only Atom-based ITX board on the market with enough drive connections is the MSI IM-945GC, which is what I'm currently using. If only the Ion had one more SATA port...!
  • sprockkets - Thursday, May 21, 2009 - link

    They are much cheaper. And, when using a really small mini-ITX case, it makes for a really easy build.

    They do show up as a SATA or PATA device, so you should be able to boot up from it, if it supports booting from add on cards. It isn't any different from an add on SATA or PATA controller in a pci slot.
  • abscode - Thursday, May 21, 2009 - link

    That would be great! I also would like to use a mini-PCIe SSD for some of my car pcs. Hopefully they are interested in adding this ability soon. abscode[\@\]gmail{|dot|}com
  • Fanfoot - Wednesday, May 20, 2009 - link

    So, you still couldn't do HD full screen playback, even at 720p, which is presumably what you'd run the system at if you hooked it up as a media center PC.

    What about after you cranked it up to 1.9MHz? Did that resolve the issues, or was it still unacceptable?

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