Zotac NVIDIA Ion Motherboard: SFF Goodness

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Test Systems and Video Performance

To assess the performance of the Zotac Ion motherboard, we pitted it against a number of various systems based on either Intel Atom processor designs--including the NVIDIA Ion Reference Platform--or in one case, VIA's Nano reference platform and the VIA Nano L2100 processor.  The performance numbers we've provided along with the Zotac board's are presented for a frame of reference more than anything else, since it was nearly impossible to provide identically configured test systems. As such, these test metrics should not be considered "apples to apples" comparisons, but rather a general correlation of how the Ion-based Zotac motherboard will perform versus similar, low power platforms in its peer group.

HotHardware's Test Systems
Covering the bases

Zotac Ion
Atom N330, 1.6GHz, FSB 533MHz
2GB DDR2-800
GeForce 9400M, 16 graphics cores

On-Board Ethernet
On-Board Audio
74GB WD Raptor
10K RPM SATA
GeForce Driver v185.85
Windows Vista Ultimate

NVIDIA Ion Ref. PC
Atom 230, 1.6GHz, FSB 533MHz
2GB DDR3-1066
GeForce 9400M, 16 graphics cores
On-Board Ethernet
On-Board Audio
160GB Seagate HD
5400 RPM SATA

Windows Vista Premium

Asus Eee PC 1000H
Intel Atom N270 - 1.6 GHz

1x2GB DDR2-533
Intel
945GME
On-Board Ethernet
On-Board Audio
80 Seagate GB Hard Drive 5400 RPM SATA

Windows XP SP3

Acer Asipre Revo
Atom 230, 1.6GHz, FSB 533MHz
2GB DDR2-800
GeForce 9400M, 16 graphics cores

On-Board Ethernet
On-Board Audio
160GB Seagate HD
5400 RPM SATA

Windows Vista Premium

Lenovo IdeaPad S10
Intel Atom N270 - 1.6 GHz

1x2GB DDR2-533

Intel 945GME
GeForce 9300M
On-Board Ethernet
On-Board Audio
160GB Hard Drive
5,400 RPM SATA

Windows XP SP3


For PCMark Vantage and Cinebench Tests:
  • Intel BOXD945GCLF Motherboard and Intel Atom 230 @ 1.6GHz.- 2GB DDR2-800, 74GB WD Raptor HD
  • VIA Epia-SN Nano reference motherboard and Nano L2100 @ 1.8GH - 2GB DDR2-800, 74GB WD Raptor HD
Acer Aspire Revo Video Playback Performance
HD Video Playback

Before we ran any benchmarks on the Zotac Ion motherboard, we played some video clips and Blu-Ray discs on the system to get a feel for its video performance and quality. Because the NVIDIA Ion platform's main claim to fame is its integrated graphics processor, we feel video performance is an important consideration.


Zotac Ion Video Playback - 1080p QuickTime Clip From BBC Motion



Zotac Ion Video Playback - 1080p Matroska Clip From Watchmen
 

We found the Zotac Ion motherboard's video playback performance to be very good. In the image above, an H.264-encoded 1080p clip from the BBC Motion library is playing on the system. As the image shows, even with a full 1080p QuickTime clip, CPU utilization is well below 100%. Playing back other file types and even Blu-Ray discs using an external Lite-On player were also pleasurable, but CPU utilization does spike higher during Blu-Ray playback to the point where you shouldn't do anything else with the machine, even though it's got a dual-core Atom N330 (with HT) at its heart. In addition to the QuickTime test, we also spent some time with the free MPC-HC (Media Player Classic-Home Cinema) player. We played back an H.264 encoded Matroska file of the Watchmen movie trailer. Because MPC-HC has full support for NVIDIA GPU hardware acceleration, CPU utilization is minimal, even with a full resolution 1080p clip.

 
The Zotac Ion Motherboard In Action

We also shot a bit of video of the Zotac Ion motherboard in action in a few different scenarios, to give you all a better sense of its performance in some real-world situations. In the clip above, we browse the web, stream video from Hulu and YouTube, and playback the 1080p BBC clip mentioned earlier. As you'll see, playback and system responsiveness is quite good; much better than the Acer Aspire Revo we took a look at a few weeks back. We attribute the Zotac board's stronger performance here to its more powerful--relatively speaking--dual core processor and the clean OS installation we performed when building up our test machine.


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