Blu-ray and Gaming Power Consumption

In order to produce comparable numbers to previous CPU articles I ran the same power test in my Zotac review as I did in other CPU reviews. While the x264 encode test is good for stressing the CPU, it doesn’t do anything to the GPU. So what does power consumption look like when you’re pushing the GPU? Interestingly enough: not very different:

Playing back a Blu-ray movie using the 9300’s PureVideo engine actually uses less power than when the GPU is idle and the CPU is running at 100%. Remember that NVIDIA’s PureVideo decode engine is separate from the 3D rendering engine, it’s a highly specialized piece of the die useful only for video decode. As a result, it’s highly power efficient.

  Idle Power x264 Encoding Power Consumption Blu-ray Playback Power Consumption World of Warcraft Power Consumption
Zotac Ion-A 25W 28.2W 28.0W 34.0W


The story is very different when you look at total system power consumption while playing World of Warcraft. We see our highest power consumption in this scenario since both the CPU and the SPs on the GPU are working in parallel.

While my Blu-ray CPU utilization numbers were taken without a BD drive attached, it’s worth noting that simply connecting an optical drive to the system can significantly increase power consumption. With my Sony Blu-ray drive plugged in to Zotac’s Ion board the system’s idle power consumption went up from 25W to 29W - that’s a 16% increase.

I would provide load power measurements with a Blu-ray drive attached but PowerDVD 9 started to complain about an incompatible graphics driver and refused to play any encrypted Blu-ray content. Note that this was the same install I ran my original Blu-ray playback tests on, simply several reboots and a couple of game installs later. Unfortunately it continues to be more user friendly to circumvent Blu-ray disc encryption to watch movies you own than to simply insert the disc and watch them on the PC. What would we do without AnyDVD HD.

Final Words

Availability of the Zotac Ion A boards (with the dual-core Atom 330) is still pretty limited (Newegg only has the single-core version in stock) but I still stand by it being a good little motherboard. I personally wouldn’t touch the single-core version unless it was just being used for a file server or something similarly light on the CPU, in which case it might make sense to snag the cheaper Intel version.

For now the Ion looks like a good platform, although I do wonder what will come of it next year. Intel isn’t very happy about NVIDIA’s Apple coup and the recent attention of Ion. If Intel doesn’t enable seamless HD video playback with Pineview then NVIDIA deserves to see Ion grow into a success. Oh and Intel, if you’re listening, 8-channel LPCM audio over HDMI would be a nice plus (I’ll be extra happy if we get bitstreaming of HD audio codecs).

Cooling the Zotac Ion
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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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