Zotac’s IONITX-A Mini-ITX board

Manufacturer Zotac
Model IONITX-A
Price (MSRP) $179
Availability Soon

Intel’s Atom processor has become wildly popular in little more than a year. Once aimed at so-called mobile internet devices, the Atom took a bit of a detour, fueling the explosion of netbooks before creeping into small-form-factor desktops and even network-attached storage solutions. All the while, it’s been tied to an antiquated 945G-series chipset and thoroughly underpowered GMA 950 graphics.

Certainly, you’ve heard this story before. The Atom possesses just enough horsepower to offer “fast enough” performance with basic 2D desktop tasks. However, it can’t handle HD video playback on its own, and the perhaps inappropriately named Graphics Media Accelerator 950 offers little assistance in that department. The GMA 950 is also woefully ill-equipped to handle games, with basic compatibility a potentially more glaring issue than the GPU’s anemic performance.

Had the Atom stuck to MIDs, its platform’s shortcomings might have been less apparent. But now that netbooks are competing with full-fledged notebooks and nettops are looking increasingly tempting for low-power home theater PC applications, the 945G is really starting to hold the Atom back.

Nvidia proposed a solution to this problem a few months ago with the introduction of its Ion reference design. The Ion platform is essentially just a GeForce 9400 chipset—the same silicon found in the MacBook Air and Micro-ATX GeForce 9400 desktop motherboards—paired with an Atom processor. This chipset brings Intel’s pint-sized CPU a modern integrated graphics component with HD video playback acceleration and native HDMI output. The Ion combo also carries cutting-edge core logic components, including Serial ATA RAID and Gigabit Ethernet.

We quite liked the Ion formula when we reviewed the reference system, but Nvidia didn’t have any design wins to talk about at the time. And so we waited. Just a few months later, Acer unveiled an intriguing Ion-based nettop dubbed the AspireRevo. Pre-built systems aren’t much fun for enthusiasts, but there’s hope for folks looking to roll their own Ion-based systems. Today Zotac takes the wraps off its IONITX-A: an Ion implementation that comes on a standard Mini-ITX motherboard.

The IONITX-A features a dual-core Atom N330 processor running at 1.6GHz. Since Hyper-Threading grants this config four hardware threads, the N330 should be much faster than a single-core Atom CPU with multitasking or with sufficiently multithreaded applications. Such talk of multithreading may conjure images of computationally intensive applications, but in this case, think more about improved competency. The dual-core N330 just feels a little smoother with basic desktop tasks. It’s still in “just fast enough” territory, but with a smidgen of extra smoothness and fewer hitches when multitasking.

Zotac mates the N330’s dual CPU cores with a pair of DDR2 memory channels. The IONITX accepts standard desktop memory modules, and you can pack in up to 2GB per channel for a maximum of 4GB of system memory.

These DIMM slots are tied to a memory controller residing in the GeForce 9400 chipset—silicon, which Nvidia has now taken to calling the MCP7A-ION. This chip features a DirectX 10-class graphics processor with a 450MHz core and 16 shader PhysX CUDA processors running at 1100MHz. More importantly, the IGP includes a PureVideo HD decoding block capable of accelerating HD video and Blu-ray playback. The MCP7A-ION also offers HDMI output capabilities, complete with HDCP support and 8-channel audio.

Of course, the MCP7A is more than just an integrated graphics processor. It has six integrated Serial ATA RAID ports, four of which are used by the Zotac board, which has three internal SATA ports and one eSATA connector. The MCP7A provides the board’s Gigabit Ethernet connectivity and the PCI Express lanes for its Mini PCIe slot, as well. Zotac wisely fills this expansion slot with an 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi card from AzureWave, giving the IONITX plenty of wireless networking options.

The Ion MCP shares a large, passive heatsink with the board’s Atom CPU. This cooler only stands about an inch and a half tall (36 mm, to be exact), so the IONITX should be easy to slip into smaller enclosures. Zotac cautions that extremely cramped cases might not offer enough airflow for passive cooling, though. A low-profile 60 mm fan is included just in case, but we didn’t need it on our open test bench, which offers little in the way of ambient airflow.

Obviously, the prospect of a passively-cooled Ion-based system is tantalizing. The IONITX-A makes such a configuration even more likely by including a fanless 90W power supply that looks not unlike what one might find bundled with an Atom-based netbook or nettop.

The brick-style PSU plugs directly into a DC connector in the IONITX’s port cluster. Power for additional devices is provided by a three-headed SATA power connector that plugs into an onboard Molex plug.

You’ll find the rest of the IONITX’s ports in the rear cluster, which is positively stacked for a board of this size. Video outputs are available in VGA, DVI, and HDMI flavors, and the board is capable of feeding its DVI and HDMI outputs simultaneously. If you’d rather not run audio over HDMI, the IONITX has dual S/PDIF outputs in addition to a trio of analog audio jacks. These audio ports are serviced by a Realtek ALC662 codec that’s only a 6-channel solution; you’ll need to run audio over HDMI to get 8-channel output.

The only thing really missing from the IONITX’s port cluster is a PS/2 mouse port that might’ve come in handy for those using older KVM switches. There’s really no need to run a PS/2 mouse otherwise, especially when the IONITX has plenty of USB ports: six at the rear, with onboard headers for four more.

BIOS options

Although it’s possible to crank Atom clock speeds even in some netbooks, there are certainly more attractive platforms for prospective overclockers. Nevertheless, the IONITX-A’s BIOS has a modest array of overclocking and tweaking options.

Bus speeds FSB: 400-2147MHz in 1MHz
increments

DRAM: 400-1800MHz in 1MHz increments

Voltages
DRAM: auto, 2.0, 2.1V

Chipset: auto, 1.05, 1.1V

Monitoring

Voltage, fan status, and
temperature
Fan speed CPU: Quiet, 25%, medium,
75%, 10%

Make that a very modest array. But the clock speed controls are easy to use, and you can arbitrarily key in values rather than having to scroll through a giant list of options. If you select a front-side bus speed in excess of 2147MHz, however, the board reboots—not that you should pushing the Atom’s FSB that high in the first place.

The IONITX’s suite of memory timing options is probably far more useful than the board’s overclocking controls. Memory voltages are tweakable, as well, which should allow the board to play nicely with a broad array of budget and high-end modules.

Given its likely home in small-form-factor desktops and home theater PCs, the IONITX’s limited fan controls are a bit of a disappointment. The board may be capable of running with passive cooling, but I’d wager that a fair number of folks are going to need at least some measure of active airflow. The IONITX only provides static fan speed options for its CPU fan header, which is a cut below temperature-based fan speed control. What’s worse, these fan speed controls don’t appear to work. The included fan is reasonably quiet running at full speed, but it doesn’t seem to slow down when switched to quiet mode.

Specifications and pricing

We’re focusing on the IONITX-A today, but Zotac also has an IONITX-B revision that loses the bundled PSU and trades the Atom N330 for a single-core N270 CPU. The IONITX-A is expected to sell for $179 online and $189 in retail, with the B slated to run between $139 and $149, depending on the vendor. Zotac expects boards to trickle out this week, with widespread availability coming before the end of the month.

Our discussion thus far has hit on all the key elements of the IONITX’s hardware, but here they are distilled into spec sheet form:

Processor Intel Atom N330 1.6GHz
Memory 2
240-pin DIMM sockets

Maximum of 4GB of DDR2-667/800 SDRAM

Chipset Nvidia MCP7A-ION
Graphics Nvidia GeForce 9400M
Storage I/O 3 channels 300MB/s Serial ATA
with RAID 0, 1, 0+1 support
Audio
6-channel audio via Realtek ALC662
8-channel HDMI audio
Ports
1 PS/2 keyboard
6 USB 2.0 with headers for 4
more
1 RJ45 10/100/1000 Ethernet1 HDMI with HDCP
1 DVI
1 VGA

1 analog front output
1 analog line input
1 analog mic input
1
coaxial S/PDIF output
1 TOS-Link S/PDIF output

Communications

802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi via AzureWave AR5891 (Mini
PCI Express)
Dimensions
6.9
x 6.9″ (171
mm x 171 mm)

Our testing methods

I don’t have any nettops in house, but our recent work with budget ultraportable notebooks gives us some interesting fodder for performance comparisons. Today we’ve lined up an HP Pavilion dv2 equipped with a single-core Athlon Neo processor and Radeon HD 3410 integrated graphics, a Samsung NC20 with a Via Nano processor and integrated S3 graphics, and an Eee PC 1000H with the venerable Atom N270 and GMA 950. We’ve tried to come up with a reasonable configuration for the IONITX, throwing in 2GB of memory and a 2.5″ Western Digital Caviar Blue hard drive. We elected to run Windows Vista on the Ion board, not only because Nvidia touts the GeForce 9400’s ability to make Aero look all spiffy, but because Vista’s integrated media center GUI makes it a prime candidate for home theater PCs.

All tests were run three times, and their results were averaged.

System

HP Pavilion dv2


Asus Eee PC 1000H


Samsung NC20
Zotac IONITX-A
Processor AMD Athlon Neo MV-40
1.6GHz
Intel Atom N270 1.6GHz Via Nano ULV 2250 1.3GHz+ Intel Atom N330 1.6GHz
System bus HyperTransport 800MHz 533MHz (133MHz quad-pumped) 800 MT/s (200MHz
quad-pumped)
533MHz (133MHz quad-pumped)
North bridge AMD RS690E Intel 945GSM Via VX800 Nvidia MCP7A-ION
South bridge AMD SB600 Intel ICH7M Via ID8353
Memory size 2GB (1 DIMM) 1GB
(1 DIMM)
1GB (1 DIMM) 2GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHz
CAS latency
(CL)
5 4 5

RAS to CAS delay (tRCD)
5 4 5
RAS precharge
(tRP)
5 4 5
Cycle time
(tRAS)
15 12 15
Audio codec IDC codec with 6.10.6138.62 drivers Realtek
ALC6628
with 5.10.0.5683 drivers
Realtek codec
with

5.10.0.5740 drivers

Realtek ALC662 codec
with

2.22 drivers

Graphics ATI Mobility Radeon HD
3410 with 8.563.3.1000 drivers
Intel GMA950 with
6.14.10.4926 drivers
Via Chrome9 IGP with
6.14.10.182 drivers
Nvidia GeForce 9400M with
185.43 drivers

Hard drive
Western Digital Scorpio
Blue 320GB 5,400 RPM
Seagate Momentus 5400.4 160GB
5,400 RPM
Samsung Spinpoint M
HM160HI 5,400RPM
Western Digital Scorpio
Blue 320GB 5,400 RPM

Operating system


Microsoft Vista Home Premium
x64 with Service Pack 1
Microsoft Windows XP Home
with Service Pack 3
Microsoft Windows XP Pro with Service Pack 3

Microsoft Vista Home Premium
x32 with Service Pack 1

We used the following versions of our test applications:

All the tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.

Performance

Browsing is what most folks do with their PCs most of the time, so it’s a good place to begin our performance analysis. FutureMark’s Peacekeeper benchmark tests JavaScript functions that the company says are commonly used on websites like YouTube, Facebook, Gmail, and others. To test Flash performance, we used the GUIMark rendering benchmark.

The IONITX doesn’t fare so well in our browser benchmarks, likely due to the fact that we’re running Windows Vista. Our other Atom-based system, the Eee PC 1000H, scores a little higher running Windows XP. The Zotac board’s extra Atom core certainly doesn’t help it here, nor does the platform’s second memory channel. To be fair, though, the IONITX doesn’t feel any slower in day-to-day browsing.

Next up we have 7-Zip’s built-in benchmark, which tests file compression and decompression performance. We used the 32-bit client and let the test run up to 10 iterations.

7-Zip is multithreaded, given the IONITX’s dual-core Atom a chance to shine. The board’s performance is nearly twice that of the Eee PC and even faster the Pavilion dv2, which has a full-fledged (albeit single-core) Athlon 64 under the hood.

For a quick gaming benchmark, we used FRAPS to record frame rates across five 60-second intervals in Quake Live‘s beginner sorting level. The Eee PC and NC20 ran the game at 1024×576 while the dv2 was capable of smooth frame rates at the system’s native screen resolution of 1280×800. We ran the IONITX at 1280×1024 because, well, see for yourself:

The IONITX plays Quake Live reasonably well at 1280×1024 resolution. In fact, its median low frame rate is much higher than that of the Eee PC, despite the fact that the Ion board is pushing twice the number of pixels.

Quake Live isn’t a particularly demanding title. However, even with a GeForce 9400 and dual-core Atom processor, the Ion platform isn’t much of a gamer. The integrated GeForce all but guarantees game compatibility and decent visuals, but we’ve found that limited CPU power causes far too much stuttering in games like Call of Duty 4 and Half-Life 2, let alone more recent and demanding titles. If you’re looking to play games on the IONITX, we’d advise you to sticking to what are increasingly referred to as casual titles. AudioSurf, for example, runs nice and smooth on the IONITX with the second-highest detail level setting at 1280×1024.

World of Warcraft is playable, too. With the mix of high, medium, and low detail levels automatically set by the game at 1024×768 resolution, we enjoyed frame rates in the mid 30s and low 40s while plodding around on a random server.

We also logged some time with the Battlefield: Heroes beta and can report that the IONITX managed frame rates in the mid 20s with medium in-game detail levels at 800×600. The game wasn’t completely smooth, but it was playable.

Ultimately, the IONITX does little to improve the Ion formula’s fairly limited gaming grunt. This platform is really geared more toward multimedia playback, and it’s here that the IONITX shines the brightest. We tested video playback with a number of clips, including standard-definition content of the sort one might acquire over BitTorrent, HD content at 480p, 720p, and 1080p, and H.264, MPEG2, and VC-1 flavors of high-bitrate Blu-ray. The IONITX handled it all, with only a few exceptions.

Back when we first tested the Ion platform’s Blu-ray chops, we found that playback wasn’t smooth with Nature’s Journey, a 1080i title we were playing back at 1080p. We were using PowerDVD, which is compatible with the GeForce 9400’s PureVideo HD decode block, so application acceleration wasn’t the issue. Instead, Nvidia said the stuttering we experienced was caused by the combination of the fact that PureVideo was only optimized for 1080p content and the fact that the Ion reference design had only a single memory channel. Apparently they were right, because the IONITX had no problem smoothly playing back Nature’s Journey or any of our other Blu-ray movies at 1920×1080 resolution over HDMI. In fact, CPU utilization only hovered around 30% during Blu-ray playback.

Thanks to its PureVideo HD support, PowerDVD also had no problems handling 480p, 720p, and 1080p movie trailers. The 480p and 720p clips even played back smoothly in QuickTime, which doesn’t make use of GPU acceleration. Our 1080p clip stuttered too much to be watchable, though. Speaking of stuttering, the IONITX proved incapable of handling HD YouTube content. That’s not terribly surprising considering how CPU-intensive Flash-based video playback seems to be.

Curious to see just how much power the IONITX was sucking during testing, I hooked the power supply up to our trusty watt meter to measure total system power draw, excluding the monitor and speakers. Even with optical and hard disk drives hooked up, the IONITX system drew just 26W at idle and only 34W during Blu-ray playback. Impressive.

Next, I used SpeedFan to monitor system temperatures and found that the IONITX’s GPU idles at about 61°C on an open test bench. SpeedFan reports four different CPU core temperatures for the Atom N330, and those ranged from 52-60°C at idle. During Blu-ray playback, GPU temperatures rose to 72°C with the CPU cores between 76 and 79°C. That’s a little warm, but the system was perfectly stable through multiple movie loops. I even subjected the board to a Prime95/rthdribl CPU and GPU torture test and found that the system kept chugging for hours on end as its GPU temperature peaked at 80°C, while the CPU cores climbed to 94-95°C.

Conclusions

The MCP7A-ION is clearly the best chipset for Intel’s Atom processor, but the very same MCP can also be found in another Zotac Mini-ITX board, the GeForce 9300-ITX. For a penny less than $140, the 9300-ITX offers a PCI Express x16 slot that can accept standard desktop graphics cards and an LGA775 CPU socket compatible with a wide range of Core 2 processors, all while sticking to a small Mini-ITX form factor.

I bring up the 9300-ITX because it nicely highlights the relative weakness of Intel’s Atom processor. Fast enough as the N330 may be for desktop tasks, it can’t handle games as old as Half-Life 2 and Call of Duty 4—titles that are easily playable when the so-called Ion MCP is paired with even a budget Core 2 processor. The Atom’s modest horsepower is also a hindrance when performing demanding tasks like video encoding. Sure, there are a handful of CUDA-aware applications that can accelerate the process, but your options are limited. If you’re going to be engaging in computationally intensive work, you shouldn’t be running an Atom processor in the first place.

The Atom does best when it’s asked to handle basic tasks while consuming little power, at a relatively low cost. In that context, the Ion platform’s casual game compatibility and video playback acceleration are its most compelling features. The IONITX certainly delivers on those fronts: games like World of Warcraft and Quake Live run without issue, and both HD video clips and Blu-ray movies play back perfectly smoothly, provided you’re using a PureVideo-aware app like PowerDVD.

With dual memory channels and a dual-core CPU, Zotac’s IONITX-A really is as good as the Ion platform gets. The motherboard sports plenty of nice little touches, including support for simultaneous DVI and HDMI output, integrated draft-n Wi-Fi, passive CPU and chipset cooling, and a fanless PSU. The inclusion of a silent power supply is the real kicker for me, not just because it makes building a quiet system easier, but also because it broadens the number of enclosures that one could use—an important consideration given the odd mix of Mini-ITX cases on the market. Putting a PSU in the box makes the IONITX-A’s $179 asking price easier to justify, too, since all you need to add is memory, storage, and a case.

Of course, even with a PSU, $180 is a lot to pay for an Atom-based motherboard. 945G-based Mini-ITX boards with the very same dual-core Atom CPU run around $80 online. But those boards are typically limited to a single DIMM slot and analog video output. What’s more, they can’t play back HD video and are all but useless for gaming. You don’t get Gigabit Ethernet, built-in Wi-Fi, or digital audio outputs, either. So the IONITX-A costs more, but it offers more.

Were I looking to build an Atom-based desktop or home theater PC today, I’d use the IONITX-A in a heartbeat. It’s easily the best Atom-based motherboard around and thus TR Recommended. However, I’m not so sure I’d pick the IONITX-A over Zotac’s GeForce 9300-ITX, if only because I’m an enthusiast who appreciates the flexibility and performance that an LGA775 socket and PCI Express x16 slot can provide. The truth is that both boards are good options, and choosing between them is more a matter of evaluating whether the Atom processor is fast enough for the sort of tasks the system you’re building will be asked to handle on a daily basis.

Comments closed
    • mghong
    • 11 years ago

    how about this motherboard

    “Built in the mini-ITX form factor, Intel® Desktop Board DG45FC is a small but powerful desktop board with integrated HDMI display output and hardware accelerated decode during high-definition playback. With support of Intel® Core™2 Duo processors and up to 1333 FSB, you can expect a lot from this tiny desktop board! ”

    I believe we can run HTPC with this w/o debut on performance & power consumption..??

    • kryten172
    • 11 years ago

    Home Theater system motherboards are a dieing need already

    The new wave of Blu-ray home theater systems have wireless connections that stream from your main PC and in the long run cheaper than making a home PC and power consumption. If the first wave of these are here now they`ll be the only choice in a year….

    HT-BD1250R
    §[<http://www.samsung.com/uk/consumer/detail/spec.do?group=homeentertainment&type=homecinema&subtype=homecinema&model_cd=HT-BD1250R/XEU&fullspec=F#<]§

    • stmok
    • 11 years ago

    If you want PCI-Express x16 slot with your Mini-ITX sized ION solution, here’s one potential candidate. 🙂

    => §[<http://www.fudzilla.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=13548&Itemid=37<]§ Costs about... => §[<http://www.fudzilla.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=13577&Itemid=1<]§ $139 UK pounds for Dual core Atom 330 version. $129 UK pounds for Single core Atom 230 version. (Prices include VAT)

    • LoneWolf15
    • 11 years ago

    I would have really liked one PCI-e slot for a TV tuner board such as Hauppauge’s WinTV HVR-2250.

    §[<http://www.hauppauge.com/site/products/data_hvr2250.html<]§ That'd make this board perfect. Without that, I think the Core2 Zotac board previously reviewed by TR is a better choice.

    • Nomgle
    • 11 years ago

    /[http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.1440<]§

    • Pax-UX
    • 11 years ago

    Soundwave: Superior. Zotac’s IONITX-A: Inferior

      • burntham77
      • 11 years ago

      That is awesome that someone got ahold of an old Soundwave toy. =D

        • MadManOriginal
        • 11 years ago

        It’s a recent reissue not a true G1 but it was pretty funny to see it just randomly placed in the picture without even any kind of comment. §[<http://tfwiki.net/wiki/Soundwave_(G1)_toys<]§

    • Coruscant
    • 11 years ago

    Do the SATA ports support port multiplication? Most of the NASes are moving to be Atom (or Geode) based. With the exception of a few pricey industrial Atom motherboards, there isn’t anything in the DIY market that could support building a 5-bay RAID box.

      • Nomgle
      • 11 years ago

      Every single Atom board that includes a PCI or PCI-e slot, can support way more than 5 drives – just plug in a controller !
      You aren’t restricted to the onboard SATA ports, unless you choose a board with no expansion (like this one).

        • Coruscant
        • 11 years ago

        I should have been more clear. If you have a 5 drive RAID, then you can easily exceed the bandwidth of PCI. To my knowledge, while the Atom chipset supports PCIe, there aren’t any consumer motherboards with available PCIe slots.

          • Nomgle
          • 11 years ago

          That’s not really an issue for NAS use – you’re limited by the speed of your Ethernet link.
          Given a 1Gb connection, you’ll struggle to get much more than 50MB/s of actual throughput – so your PCI-interfaced RAID array shouldn’t have any trouble keeping up !

          The best route today for a cheap NAS, is probably an Intel D945GCLF2 – §[<http://www.intel.com/products/desktop/motherboards/D945GCLF2-D945GCLF2D/D945GCLF2-D945GCLF2D-overview.htm<]§ They're very reasonably priced, and come complete with Gigabit-Ethernet and a Dual-Core Atom. Shove in a PCI controller if you want more than 2 Hard Drives, and install your operating system of choice. Windows Home Server is probably your best bet - it makes RAID5 redundant, so you can use any old PCI SATA controller to drive your discs, and also offers transparent automatic none-duplicated-file (ie, it stores only one copy of explorer.exe even though the same file is present on every machine) backups of all your Windows machines. It's also fully-fledged Windows, so you're free to run your choice of BitTorrent Clients, Web Servers, P2P Downloaders, and whatever else you'd like to do to elevate it way above the average dumb NAS...

    • blubje
    • 11 years ago

    Were those temperatures with a heatsink fan on or off? I’d only consider getting this board if it could run completely fanless, or with a very silent 120mm case fan.

    • blubje
    • 11 years ago

    One of the worst review ever read. How can you compare a system with XP with one with Vista? a 1024×600 resolution with a 1280×1024 one?? Different HDD? Didn’t say a word on Wi-Fi card?!
    E–

      • derFunkenstein
      • 11 years ago

      One of the worst comments ever read. How can you ignore the benchmarks that were reported had nothing to do with graphics performance! No mention that the review didn’t do anything comparing one system’s game playing (which has been covered and covered in countless previous reviews) wasn’t really compared to the other systems.

      Didn’t read a word of the FIRST GODDAMN PAGE OF THE REVIEW where the wifi card was mentioned. Knuckle-dragger. They should take your internet connection away and plug the ethernet cable in your rectum. Stop licking the tires of my car.

      B–

        • ssidbroadcast
        • 11 years ago

        One of the best goddamn troll-flames ever read. How can you take a troll like that seriously? Not to mention that you easily picked apart his argument and made him look like a total fail.

        (Yes, friends, I have just taken the 3rd derivative.)

          • derFunkenstein
          • 11 years ago

          If I took it seriously I would have responded in a serious tone rather than make fun of his “use” of “language”. 😆

      • eitje
      • 11 years ago

      Welcome to… oh.

    • Ricardo Dawkins
    • 11 years ago

    Fsck the mobo!…
    I want the Transformers (Soundwave)!

    • Captain Ned
    • 11 years ago

    If it had a second Ethernet port or a PCI-E slot, this little gem would make a perfect gateway/router box.

    • anand
    • 11 years ago

    Are there any good cases for a motherboard like this? On Newegg, all of the ITX cases I found either had a power supply included or had a big gaping hole for one. Since this motherboard has it’s own power supply and it’s external, it’d be nice to have a smaller case that didn’t devote any space to house a PSU.

    Barring that, you could probably troll eBay or a pawn shop and find an old cable box or something and hack it apart to make decent case for this.

      • UberGerbil
      • 11 years ago

      You need to look for ITX cases (from specialty sites, as there are very few on Newegg) — the ones aimed at VIA’s line often assume an external power supply. But the cases generally aren’t very stylish or even particularly high-quality, from what I’ve seen. The best of them are rather industrial, and the rest are kind of chintzy. Though style is in the eye of the beholder, of course, and I’d love to be proven wrong.

      • eitje
      • 11 years ago

      I’m madly in love with the iStarUSA S3 STORM. It’s the best mITX case I’ve ever owned. newegg always had trouble carrying stock of it, though, and they appear to have deactivated the item.

      I’ve also had my eye for a long time on the Chenbro ES34069, but I’ve never done much about it. Also not stocked on newegg.

      when the IONITX-D-E is available @ newegg, I’ll likely pick it up, along with an IN-WIN BM639. This case *is* available on newegg. 🙂

      • iatacs19
      • 11 years ago

      I got this case:

      §[<http://www.bigbruin.com/reviews05/serener/index.php?file=1<]§ from here: §[<http://www.logicsupply.com/products/gs_l01<]§ I'll have to modify the optical + hdd tray and take out the power supply, but it looks well engineered and high quality to be worthy of a home theater rack. :)

        • MadManOriginal
        • 11 years ago

        Nice looking case but the heatsink looks to be customized for specific board layout? I certainly wouldn’t want to use this Zotac board in a fanless case.

          • iatacs19
          • 11 years ago

          You think the temperature would be too high in a fanless case?

            • MadManOriginal
            • 11 years ago

            Maybe if by fanless you mean big holes above the heatsink for natural convection, along with some holes for intake once an air current gets going. But temps of 70C+ on an open testbed without a fan do not bode well for operation in a tiny cramped case with little ventilation. It’s just something that would have to be monitored by a competent DIYer is all, or use a very low RPM 120mm fan to keep it quiet.

          • eitje
          • 11 years ago

          it was on an open bench with no airflow when the temps were recorded in the review. they weren’t BAD.

    • Traz
    • 11 years ago

    reply button is my friend…

    ignore this.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 11 years ago

    I’m curious about the PSU that comes with it, especially since you’re forced to use it with the board (OK, maybe you could get a more powerful brick but then would the onboard section make that moot or not handle it?) Anyhow, I’d like to see it hooked up with 3 7200 RPM desktop drives, or with an optical drive too which is a given for an HTPC system assuming you aren’t going to break the DMCA :p By my figuring, 3 HDs at spinup plus the board could overload the PSU. Aside from the lack of even a PCIe 1x slot the PSU is the other major downside to this design.

      • wibeasley
      • 11 years ago

      Any ideas what the PSU’s efficiency is? What efficiency do bricks typically have?

        • MadManOriginal
        • 11 years ago

        Thanks for repeating the rating which was not in question, I did read the article. Upon spinup most current drives take around 25W each. 3 drives would be 75W which only leaves 15W for the motherboard which is clearly not enough, seeking around 12-13W each which would be 36-39W leaving 50W for the mobo so that would appear to be enough once they’re spun up. Furthermore at §[<http://www.mini-itx.com/store/?c=53<]§ they recommend against using a full size optical drive with this model, I don't know any figures for optical drives or slim versus fullsize. That also hints to me that the PSU is too close to its power rating to fully utilize the features of this board.

          • Tuanies
          • 11 years ago

          Hi MadMan, If you plan on running that many hard drives, I suggest opting for our IONITX-D-E which is essentially the same board minus the integrated power supply.

          -Tuan // ZOTAC NA PR

            • Dposcorp
            • 11 years ago

            Nice and quick response from the Company. That is what I like to see.
            Feel free to tell us more about the other specialty type products u have

            • MadManOriginal
            • 11 years ago

            Thanks for the reply. But there’s a problem and it’s one which you need to pass on to the appropriate people at Zotac. The fact of the matter is that the motherboard *does* supply that many internal SATA ports (not to mention the eSATA port) and *does* supply that many SATA power connectors. So a roundabout answer of ‘Don’t use all the board’s features as supplied’ doesn’t work – when I get something I expect all of its functions to be usable. A 120W brick would be more appropriate for this board as it is supplied and designed. I can gaurantee you there will be customers who buy this and try to use all the features and get a blown PSU or worse, or who are dissapointed that all of the apparent features cannot be used.

            Don’t take this the wrong way 🙂 I love the fact that Zotac is pushing out the mini-ITX options. It’s just my nature to look at what is wrong or what could be better so take it as constructive feedback.

          • Traz
          • 11 years ago

          well then that’s my bad.

      • UberGerbil
      • 11 years ago

      Your typical 1TB drive is going to want ~30W at spin up, so yeah you’re probably limited to two desktop drives total. Of course you could use something more power-thrifty for your boot drive — a 2.5″ 7K drive, an SSD, or even just a desktop drive like the Deskstar 7K drives that draw more like 20W on spin-up.

      I don’t see the lack of a PCI slot a major limitation — even a low profile card completely changes the form-factor of the cases you’re looking at, and at that point you might as well be looking at a more powerful board overall since you’ll have more room for fans, a bigger power supply, etc. I think Zotac is segmenting things correctly by offering the 9300-ITX with PCIe as the step up.

        • MadManOriginal
        • 11 years ago

        Well that seems to imply the only use for a PCIe slot is a graphics card but that would be a waste with the Atom anyway. I can think of at least two uses for a PCIe 1x slot that are not high power draw but that people might find useful to add on: sound card or especially a TV Tuner card. I wouldn’t say a low profile card completely changes the case options…many ITX cases have low profile slots and there are some that have full hieght expansion too. The ones without even half-height expansion slots are in the minority I believe.

      • willyolio
      • 11 years ago

      i’d like a car adaptor. this would be a fine Car-PC.

        • MadManOriginal
        • 11 years ago

        I doubt it would be a challenge to get a car PSU that supplies a regulated 12V to this board as long as the connector isn’t some goofy size.

          • eitje
          • 11 years ago

          you’d need to be careful about voltages. that’s a good way to ruin a mobo with integrated DC.

            • MadManOriginal
            • 11 years ago

            Well yes, I didn’t dig to find the PSU output specs. I assumed it was 12V but if it’s some lame non-standard voltage that would be annoying. The thing to be careful with a car PC PSU is not just the voltage but having a proper power supply that rejects noise and surges.

    • flip-mode
    • 11 years ago

    $180 seems a little steep, but meh, it is pretty feature packed.

    I’d take the 775 based ITX every which way over this thing, and putting the two side by side, I just do not understand why someone would choose the Atom, unless power draw was an /extremely/ important issue.

    Now if this thing was cheaper, like $100, then I would be more than amused, I might just be interested.

    I like the Ion – a low power and capable integrated solution. What is not to like about that…

      • MadManOriginal
      • 11 years ago

      Well that is the MSRP after all so street price ought to be lower. Naturally I’d prefer the 9300-ITX too though. The lack of standard expansion on this guy kills it, PCIe is a major benefit of the NV chipset but they use it for wireless here. 🙁 Even a PCIe 1x slot would make this a lot more appealing.

        • apaige
        • 11 years ago

        177 EUR at mini-itx.com… Ouch!
        Edit: 199 EUR at french e-tailer materiel.net! What’s with the prices? 🙁

      • brsett
      • 11 years ago

      Passive cooling in a small form factor. Home theater PCs should be silent!!!

      • jinjuku
      • 11 years ago

      If you can find a better passively cooled solution at a lower cost knock your self out.

    • 5150
    • 11 years ago

    *Hugs his dv2*

    • Ruiner
    • 11 years ago

    No attempts at overclocking? 😉

      • maasenstodt
      • 11 years ago

      That’s my question as well. The tools are there. How far can the Atom be pushed?

      • HurgyMcGurgyGurg
      • 11 years ago

      With the CPU cores at 95 C on a stress test at stock, I’d say not very far.

        • Ruiner
        • 11 years ago

        Cooling is easy to fix. The bios is 90% of the battle.
        An OC to 2GHz should be a chip shot and would be pretty noticeable.

    • bluecolour
    • 11 years ago

    i believe N330 do not have speedstep but N270.
    so the average power consumption is higher.
    not better useful for 24 hrs uptime.
    am i correct to say so??

    • Joshvar
    • 11 years ago

    Woohoo thanks for the Quake Live results! Not as good as I was hoping for, but still not bad! 🙂

    • Ruiner
    • 11 years ago

    A 30GB OCZ vertex would pair well with this.

    • Dposcorp
    • 11 years ago

    Thanks for the article. What do we know about Zotac? Are they a reliable brand? Easy to find? How is their support?

    • Tarx
    • 11 years ago

    Interesting article!
    With the Intel G45 ITX and a Celeron 430 (35watt rated) with a 2.5″ drive using a pico psu, the draw was about 40 watts from the wall while installing Linux.
    What I’d like to see is Intel putting out low powered dual cores for desktops (the E5200 is rated as 65w but seems to run quite a bit lower). e.g. Something like a 2GHz 45nm C2D 30 watt rated at around $100 could be quite popular with a board like the 9300 for an ITX based system.

    • eitje
    • 11 years ago

    mmm, lovely. 🙂

    I’m a little sad that it beats the pants off of the NC20, but here’s hoping that someone puts out an ION2 board before the end of the year.

    • Dodger
    • 11 years ago

    /[

    • derFunkenstein
    • 11 years ago

    Soundwave is back!

    Ravage…eject…operation…destructioin [/Frank Welker’s vocoder]

      • no51
      • 11 years ago

      I demand a review on Soundwave.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 11 years ago

        My guess is that he’s one of the Toys ‘R Us-exclusive Commemorative reissues Hasbro released in 2004. The reason I say that is that the Commemorative version’s chest compartment is deep enough to fit two cassettes, and it appears to be plenty deep in the picture.

          • MadManOriginal
          • 11 years ago

          That plus it’s in great condition. Unless Scott is one of those ‘buy a toy and don’t use it’ wiedors I doubt an original Soundwave would look that good, and if he was one of those people it wouldn’t be outside its packaging.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 11 years ago

            Probably a valid point, but you can get reproduction labels for most older Transformers from §[<http://www.reprolabels.com<]§ so it could still look that good.

            • MadManOriginal
            • 11 years ago

            Stickers aren’t the only thing that wear out on them, especially if they’re actually played with and not just put on a shelf. But thanks for the site, I’m going to organize and sell off my G1 Transformers some time and new stickers might help in some cases.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 11 years ago

            Yeah, joints are the other main source of problems, as well as hanging onto and not losing the accessories. Good luck with your sales!

          • ssidbroadcast
          • 11 years ago

          Calling all nerds.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 11 years ago

            Vrock isn’t the only one with a toy collection. The difference is I have mine out of the boxes and posed in dioramas on the bookshelves. 😆

            • ssidbroadcast
            • 11 years ago

            “Luke, Han, Chewy! They’re all here!”

      • Krogoth
      • 11 years ago

      Nvidia superior! AMD inferior!

      • burntham77
      • 11 years ago

      Frank Welker is the god of voices.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 11 years ago

        Close. I’m also partial to Chris Latta who was Starscream and Cobra Commander. Nobody did that whiny evil leader-type loser quite like he did.

    • Meadows
    • 11 years ago

    185.43?
    Haven’t seen that GeForce version before. What was the driving reason in picking it over the latest v*[<185.85<]* WHQL released for ION?

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