Beyond Atom: Exploring Performance ITX Solutions

Article Index

Test Setup & Synthetics with SANDRA

To assess the performance of the Intel DG41MJ and Zotac GF9300-D-E motherboards, we pitted them against each other head-to-head. The second goal of these benchmarks is to provide a picture of the performance delta between the high performance ITX solutions we have looked at in this article and the more conventional nettops that are currently all the rage. To that end we have also included reference numbers, for the sake of comparison, from an NVIDIA Ion setup equipped with a dual-core Atom processor. This should provide some very interesting results since both the Zotac GF9300-D-E and the Ion use the GeForce 9x00 chipset, despite being different models. However the GeForce 9400 and 9300 differ only in the clock speeds of the integrated GPU, being equal in features and functionality in all other respects.

For these tests both the DG41MJ and GF9300-D-E were equipped with a Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200S processor, in light of the DG41MJ's support for only 65W processors. While we could have used a much more powerful processor, we felt the Q8200S with its extremely impressive thermal profile is an excellent candidate for any ITX build and a good representative of mainstream performance. While it may be entirely possible to use a hotter 95W Core 2 Q9650 processor with proper cooling and a performance chassis like the Silverstone SG05, it's simply not practical in most non-gaming builds.

HotHardware's Test Systems
Covering the bases

Intel DG41MJ
Core 2 Q8200S, 2.33GHz
2GB DDR2-800
Intel
GMA X4500
On-Board Ethernet
On-Board Audio
150GB WD Raptor
10K RPM SATA
Windows Vista Ultimate

Zotac GF9300-D-E
Core 2 Q8200S, 2.33GHz
2GB DDR2-800
GeForce 9300

On-Board Ethernet
On-Board Audio
150GB WD Raptor
10K RPM SATA
Windows Vista Ultimate

NVIDIA Ion Ref. PC
Atom 330, 1.6GHz
2GB DDR2-800
GeForce 9400M
On-Board Ethernet
On-Board Audio
74GB WD Raptor
10k RPM SATA

Windows Vista Premium

 Preliminary Testing with SiSoft SANDRA 2009
 Synthetic Benchmarks

We began our testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA XII, the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. We ran four of the built-in subsystem tests that partially comprise the SANDRA 2009 suite (CPU Arithmetic, CPU Multimedia, Memory Bandwidth and disk storage).  All of the scores reported below were taken with the processor running at the default clock speed of 2.33GHz, with 2GB DDR2-800 RAM.

The Atom processor gets completely destroyed by the Core 2 Quad. This was obviously expected. Despite being the dual-core model, the Atom at 1.6GHz and less powerful design simply doesn't have enough raw processing muscle to come anywhere near the full fledged Core 2 Quad. The DG41MJ and GF9300-D-E perform identically which is to be expected.


The Atom doesn't do any better in the CPU multimedia benchmark where it gets annihilated again. Not only does the Q8200S have a higher clock frequency at 2.33Ghz and double the cores, but the Core 2 Quad processor also contain more advanced core logic and also gets the benefit of significantly higher amounts of cache at all levels.


Things gets more interesting in the memory bandwidth test. The NVIDIA Ion and GF9300-D-E are in fact stable mates, both originating from the GeForce 9x00 product series. However, there are a few differences, the Ion uses the 9400M while the GF9300-D-E uses its namesake. Despite having essentially the same memory controller and pipelines, the Ion is beaten handedly in the memory bandwidth test because the more powerful Core 2 is able to better utilize available memory resources. Perhaps more interesting is that the DG41MJ comes out on top overall with a fairly significant 1GB/s lead.
 


The disk storage test was easily won by our two review sample systems as they were equipped with 10K RPM Western Digital Raptor 150 drives while the Ion reference system was using the obsolete 74GB model. However the real purpose of this test was to compare the storage sub-system performance of the DG41MJ and the GF9300-D-E, and we see that they post identical scores. 

Overall, all of the various SANDRA CPU benchmarks we ran reported scores in line with expectations. With our first round of benchmarks, we can already see what a massive advantage having a full fledged processor can be.


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