Gaming Performance: Better and Worse than ION1

Here’s where things get a little iffy. The ION2 GPU is located behind a single PCIe 1.0 lane, that’s a maximum of 250MB/s of bandwidth in either direction. The original ION had a full x16 connection to the chipset. There are going to be certain situations where the next generation ION platform is actually slower than its predecessor. In games that are more compute bound we should see the next generation ION platform win out. In those that are CPU bound, we may see the opposite.

In either case you can actually play some games, at very low image quality settings on the next generation ION, which is something you simply can’t do on the base Pine Trail platform:

When there is an advantage, we saw anywhere from a 0 - 30% increase in GPU performance over the original ION. However when it loses, the older ION is about 5 - 10% faster.

3D Gaming Performance: NG-ION vs. ION
Low Quality Settings Zotac ZBOX HD-ID11 (NG-ION) Zotac ZBOX HD-ND02 (ION1)
Left 4 Dead (1024 x 768) 27.8 fps 22.9 fps
World of Warcraft (Good Quality - 800 x 600) 11.8 fps 11.2 fps
DiRT2 (800 x 600) 17.5 fps 18.5 fps
BioShock 2 (800 x 600) 18.6 fps 16.7 fps
Dragon Age Origins (800 x 600) 23.3 fps 17.8 fps

NVIDIA tells us that it’s up to the motherboard manufacturer to determine how to allocate the PCIe lanes coming off the NM10 Express chipset. However it’s hard to see a scenario where a company would sacrifice things like WiFi or Gigabit Ethernet for better gaming performance.

GPU Compute Performance: Still Slightly Slower than ION1

I ran a quick Badaboom encode converting a rip of the Weeds season 2 Blu-ray to an iPhone optimized format. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Badaboom is a CUDA app that uses a supported NVIDIA GPU to do all video encoding. If you’re not going for maximum image quality and just want a quick way of getting your video transcoded to a portable device, Badaboom is great.

Despite the increase in GPU and shader clock, the anemic x1 interface to the NG-ION GPU actually dropped performance compared to ION1. This is still something you can’t do with the base Pine Trail system, but it’s not exactly an upgrade over the original ION.

CUDA Performance: NG-ION vs. ION
  Zotac ZBOX HD-ID11 (NG-ION) Zotac ZBOX HD-ND02 (ION1)
Badaboom 1080p H.264 to iPhone Conversion 15.2 fps 15.4 fps
General Performance: Better than the Original ION H.264 Decode Acceleration & XBMC


View All Comments

  • Swivelguy2 - Thursday, May 06, 2010 - link

    A little typo right up in the title: "Next Gen is ION" should say "Next Gen ION is" Reply
  • shotage - Thursday, May 06, 2010 - link

    I've been waiting for one of these to hook up to my HD TV. This looks near perfect, but the fact the flash playback sucks is going to make me wait. If Nvidia can fix it with an updated driver i'm off to the shop. Otherwise I'll be back... to curse Zotac Reply
  • jvdb - Thursday, May 06, 2010 - link

    They raised the price again? if it's true, I'll wait for the shuttle. Reply
  • Roy2001 - Thursday, May 06, 2010 - link

    I need to point out that Broadcom Crystal HD decoder has a 40Mbps limitation and Ion does not have. XBMC would report dropped frames with higher than 40Mbps bitrate. That said, BD spec is less than 40Mbps and you can hardly see > 40Mbps mkv files. But I have seen that. Even XBMC with CPU decoding has the 40Mbps limitation and drops frames with CPU utilization less than 70%. Reply
  • sucram03 - Thursday, May 06, 2010 - link

    You've seen >40mbps encoded MKV's? Whoever encoded them must have done a horrible job if they're at 1080p. Nothing should have to be encoded with that high of a bitrate -- that's overkill.

    A 40mbps limitation shouldn't be a problem. One thing that isn't touched on here, though, is CUDA-enabled decoding, which removes pretty much all limitations on H.264 content when done with DXVA. With CoreAVC 2.0, you'll pretty much never have a file you can't play. That would be the nice thing about this new ION, being that it has VP4 PureVideo. But.. as some have already said, this platform is way too expensive for that usefulness.
  • mcnabney - Thursday, May 06, 2010 - link

    I have the original Zotac ION HTPC and am relatively pleased with it. Added more RAM and upgrade XP to 7. The memory upgrade made it run much more quickly and moving to Win7 allowed Mediacenter usage (it is a DVR for an HDHomerun and recorded TV is automatically moved to my WHS box).

    Old ION $200 @ Best Buy
    Win7 upgrade $50
    Upgrade to 2GB $40

    So under $300 complete.

    compare to:

    New ION $250
    HDD/SSD $80
    Win7 OEM $100

    Now we are at $430 when complete. That is a LOT more money for almost identical performance.
  • Bateluer - Friday, May 07, 2010 - link

    This is a poor comparison. The 200 dollar Ion system the Acer Revo R1600, is an Atom 230 based machine. Single core. The new Ion featured in the review is a D510, dual core machine. Performance won't be light years better by any means, but this isn't a good comparison.

    Still, if you already have an Atom 330 Ion system, there's no need to pick up one of these machines unless you have money to burn. Like the Pine Trial platform itself, NG-Ion falls flat.
  • mcnabney - Tuesday, May 11, 2010 - link

    Why wouldn't it be a good comparison? Under the tests that the new ION does surpass the old (would more memory help the old one?) the difference is moving from 49% of the performance of a slow Core2 to 53%. So there is really a very slight difference in performance. But there is a very clear difference in cost. In fact, the original Zotac ION can be purchased for $170 now. Reply
  • sucram03 - Tuesday, May 11, 2010 - link

    You missed the point of the poster. The comparison you're making is between ION2 and the original ION with Atom 330 processor (note the difference -- this is dual-core). The $199 desktop at Best Buy is an Aspire Revo1600, as the poster said, which does NOT have an Atom 330 dual-core, it has a single-core Atom 230. If you want to talk about performance, go ahead and take a look at the benchmarks again, instead now looking at that last-place ranking with the Atom 230 processor which falls short in every benchmark. Not by a huge margin, but enough to make a significant impact, which is exactly what that poster was trying to say.

    It was a very valid argument. Just make sure you're backing up your claims with solid proof, links, or other general information instead of throwing together $'s and manipulating the outcome.
  • shotage - Thursday, May 06, 2010 - link

    This quote "Streaming high definition Internet video on popular sites such as YouTube™, Vimeo™ and Hulu™ render smoothly and flawlessly in full screen with the ZOTAC ZBOX HD-ID11 and Adobe® Flash® Player 10.1. Video stuttering is a faint thought of the past with the ZOTAC ZBOX HD-ID11 with NVIDIA® ION™ graphics technology."

    from Zotacs site:

    Obviously this is incorrect. Anand; maybe someone should tell Zotac? :p

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