Zotac Next Gen NVIDIA Ion-Based ZBox Sneak Peek

NVIDIA's Ion chipset has been propping up sluggish Intel Atom-based netbook and notebook performance, in HD media playback capability, for some time now.  Even Intel's revamped Pinetrail platform with on-chip graphics couldn't offer enough multimedia muscle to be considered viable beyond standard business class applications, a bit of web browsing and email.  Of course with the new Atom's integrated memory controller, NVIDIA had to re-purpose their technology in the form of what is essentially a dedicated GPU, just for Intel's Pinetrail Atom derivative.

So what business does a dedicated GPU have being coupled to a low power nettop platform?  In short, plenty, if you're the type that actually plans to do more with this class of machine, in a Home Theater PC setting or the like. Zotac was one of the first manufacturers to hit the scene with a first generation Intel Atom and NVIDIA Ion-based nettop, so it's only fitting that they're up to the plate quickly with the next-gen Ion platform for Intel's latest dual-core Atom derivative.

This little bad boy is based on an Intel Atom D510 dual-core processor clocked at 1.66GHz.  The on-chip memory controller supports up to 4GB of DDR2-800 system memory.  However, this Atom actually doesn't have an on-chip graphics core and only consumes about 13 Watts of power on its own.

Your choice of ports -- many mainstream storage, IO and graphics interfaces are supported.

On the front side, a flash card reader, front panel audio, and a USB port are available.  On the back IO plate; eSATA, USB, DVI, HDMI  and an optical audio port -- what else could you want in a machine of this size?

On-Board 512MB DDR3 Graphics Frame Buffer Beefs-Up Ion

Waiting for a 2.5-inch HD or SSD and SODIMM, then it's ready to mount (standard VESA mount).

Dual-Core Pineview Atom (not Diamondville) with Hyperthreading at 1.66GHz

Nestled underneath the fan and heatsink assembly are our two GPU and CPU partners in crime.  All you need  to complete the Zotac barebones experience is a 2.5" notebook hard drive or SSD and a single DDR2 SODIMM, though we would have preferred dual slot availability, especially since 4GB SODIMM support is forthcoming, but not ready yet supposedly.  We'll have more on the machine in our full review in the coming week.  So stay tuned.