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Three Slim Atom/Ion 2-Based Nettop PCs Compared

Three Slim Atom/Ion 2-Based Nettop PCs Compared
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We put Giada’s Slim-N20, Jetway’s Mini-TOP, and Zotac’s ZBOX to the test. Does Intel's Atom D500-series offer smooth performance in these nettops when it's paired with Nvidia’s ION 2 graphics, or does the platform fall short of entertainment excellence?

The nettop form factor is hard for the enthusiast community to swallow. On one hand, we want to love the fact that so much technology can be packed into such a small platform. On the other, it's frustrating to sit in front of a PC with so little performance compared to our full-sized (or even microATX) desktop machines.

Nevertheless, nettops are certainly better now than they were a year ago, thanks largely to the explosive popularity of mobile netbooks and the processing/graphics improvements aimed at that segment. While the earliest Atom processors were a little too anemic for my tastes, the Atom D500-series processors, with their dual-core, Hyper-Threaded resources, have taken nettop performance to a more respectable place. Similarly, Nvidia’s "next-generation" Ion platform pushes graphics performance beyond the basic functionality that a nettop would have had otherwise given Intel's track record in graphics.

Indeed, the nettop is bigger than its original billing lets on. It's able to handle more than just basic Internet browsing and word processing. But how much work can a modern nettop actually handle? How do Intel's Atom D500 processors compare to the comparatively powerful mobile Intel Core i3 CPU? Is the Ion 2 chipset strong enough to enable gaming from such a diminutive machine? Aside from raw benchmark performance, how responsive are today's nettops compared to more powerful desktop PCs?

These are the questions we set out to answer in today's story comparing three up-to-date nettops equipped with dual-core, Hyper-Threaded Atom CPUs and Nvidia's Ion 2 chipset. Our contenders: the Giada Slim-N20, the Jetway Mini-TOP, and the Zotac ZBOX.

Nettop Specifications

Giada Slim-N20Jetway Mini-TOP
Zotac ZBOX HD-ID34
Chipset
Intel NM10Intel NM10Intel NM10
CPU
Intel Atom D510
Dual-Core, 1.66 GHz, 666 MHz FSB
Intel Atom D525
Dual-Core, 1.8 GHz, 800 MHz FSB
Intel Atom D525
Dual-Core, 1.8 GHz, 800 MHz FSB
Graphics
Nvidia Ion 2 (GT218)
Idle: 405 MHz core/810 MHz shaders
Load: 533 MHz core/1230 MHz shaders
Nvidia Ion 2 (GT218)
Idle: 405 MHz core/810 MHz shaders
Load: 533 MHz core/1230 MHz shaders
Nvidia Ion 2 (GT218)
Idle: 405 MHz core/810 MHz shaders
Load: 533 MHz core/1230 MHz shaders
Graphics Memory
512 MB GDDR3
Idle: 405 MHz
Load: 790 MHz
512 MB GDDR3
Idle: 405 MHz
Load: 790 MHz
512 MB GDDR3
Idle: 405 MHz
Load: 790 MHz
System Memory
1 x 2 GB Hyundai PC2-6400
332 MHz DDR2, 5-5-5-15-2T
not included
1 x 2 GB Samsung PC2-6400
332 MHz DDR2, 5-5-5-15-2T
Hard Drive
Seagate Momentus
320 GB, 7200RPM, 16 MB Cache, SATA 3Gb/s
not included
Samsung Spinpoint
250 GB, 5400 RPM, 8 MB Cache, SATA 3Gb/s
Optical Drive
not includednot includedBlu-ray/DVD/CD Combo Drive
Operating System
Windows 7 Home Premium
not includednot included
Internal Interfaces
Memory Support
One 200-pin SO-DIMM
DDR2-800/667, Up to 4 GB
Two 200-pin SO-DIMMs
DDR2-800/667, Up to 4 GB
Two 200-pin SO-DIMMs
DDR2-800/667, Up to 4 GB
I/O Panel Connectors
DVI
none
1
1
VGA
1
none
none
HDMI
1
1
1
USB 2.0 (3.0)
2 (0)
4 (0)
1 (2)
Memory Card Reader
SD/MMC/MS/MS Pro
SD/MMC/MS
MMC/SD/SDHC/MS/MS Pro/xD
Network
1
11
eSATA
1 (combo eSATA/USB 2.0)1 (combo eSATA/USB 2.0)1 (combo eSATA/USB 2.0)
Digital Audio Out
Optical/HDMIHDMI/SPDIFOptical/HDMI
Analog Audio
1 headphone and 1 mic jack1 headphone and 1 mic jack1 headphone and 1 mic jack
Mass Storage Controllers
Chipset SATA
1 x SATA 3.0Gb/s1 x SATA 3.0Gb/s1 x SATA 3.0Gb/s
Ethernet & Wireless
LAN
Realtek RTL8111C PCIeRealtek RTL8111DL PCIe
Realtek RTL8111DL PCIe
Wireless
Atheros AR9285Atheros 802.11 b/g/n PCIe CardAtheros AR9285
Bluetooth
Atheros AR3011none
none
Audio
HD Audio Codec
Analog & optical: Realtek ALC662
HDMI: Nvidia L-PCM digital audio
Analog: C-Media CM108AH
HDMI: Nvidia L-PCM digital audio
Analog and optical: Realtek ALC888
HDMI: Nvidia L-PCM digital audio
Audio Channels
Optical can support 5.1
output with external decoder
HDMI and can support 7.1
output with external decoder
HDMI can support 7.1
output with external decoder
HDMI and optical can support 7.1
output with external decoder


Those are the specifications—now let’s look at the hardware.

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  • 2 Hide
    DjEaZy , December 10, 2010 5:42 AM
    ... it may be a good mac mini hackentosch...
  • 0 Hide
    hmp_goose , December 10, 2010 6:10 AM
    Retest the N20's playback with a RAM drive for the temp files; I suspect the drive system is the issue . . .
  • 1 Hide
    dEAne , December 10, 2010 8:00 AM
    Overall it is good. The benchmark is fair enough - And it is presentable too.
  • 1 Hide
    cushgod , December 10, 2010 12:10 PM
    SHould test results with a SSD complared to a "mechanical" HDD to see how much that can help an Atom move along :) 
  • 4 Hide
    fullcircle_bflo , December 10, 2010 12:37 PM
    So if I wanted a computer simply to stream internet videos to a television via HDMI(such as Hulu or CBS website), would any of these be a good candidate?
  • 1 Hide
    kriminal , December 10, 2010 1:18 PM
    ^^ guess so.. fullcircle
  • -2 Hide
    mchuf , December 10, 2010 1:51 PM
    For $150 - $200, you can buy a used Pentium D or C2D pc off of craigslist. Add a $50 HD5450 gpu and a $40 wireless KB/M combo and your all set. That would be a more capable box than one of these things and at a lower price (even if you upgrade to Win 7 HP). Hell, even a used Mac Mini (old model) might be a more cost effective solution. Unless you're extremely tight for space, I don't see the appeal for an overpriced "net" device.
  • 3 Hide
    nonameworks , December 10, 2010 2:30 PM
    ^^ Only if you ignore the cost of electricity
  • 1 Hide
    tipoo , December 10, 2010 3:02 PM
    Zino HD review, please! At close to the cost of many of these nettops, it blows them away in performance and is almost as small and consumes almost as little power.
  • 1 Hide
    azcoyote , December 10, 2010 3:40 PM
    I would love one of these for only one reason. To get rid of the clunky box I let my kids play noggin.com games on. Not sure they have enough guts for the pig that is Flash though.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , December 10, 2010 6:13 PM
    The last page seems to imply that the Zotac box is the only one of the group lacking TrueHD. Is that correct?
  • 0 Hide
    gs92110 , December 10, 2010 8:05 PM
    Recently connected my Gateway 17" laptop to TV by HDMI, it works fine, but a large footprint, might be interested in one of these little Nettops, "IF" they would let me surf/email/streaming videos to TV[without pixelation messing up the videos]...I don't expect much, but need these features...
  • 2 Hide
    ethaniel , December 10, 2010 9:59 PM
    Good read, and a good thing that you opened all of them.
  • -1 Hide
    JOSHSKORN , December 10, 2010 10:46 PM
    I'll pass on Nettops until they can easily handle games like Metro 2033 and Crysis with the highest settings.
  • 0 Hide
    ProDigit10 , December 11, 2010 2:24 AM
    Jetway mini has slower readings because it's harddrive is massively slower!
    I'd replace it with an SSD, and do the tests again, and see how it'll outperform the other nettop platforms..
  • 0 Hide
    Sandburner20 , December 11, 2010 12:05 PM
    Interesting that the D510 system can't play Flash video fullscreen. I have run into the exact same problem with the Shuttle D510 system. Even more interesting that the D525 can. Could this be a timing issue with the D510 since the FSB is apparently different?
  • -1 Hide
    JohnMD1022 , December 11, 2010 12:05 PM
    We can scratch the Giada immediately.

    Why you ask?

    A Seagate drive.

    Can anyone remember the Yugo? That's Seagate.
  • 1 Hide
    naturalandtech , December 11, 2010 4:12 PM
    ASRock always rock! especially Vision 3D Series coming with:
    # Intel® Core™ i7 / i5 / i3 Mobile Processor Family
    # 2 x 2GB DDR3-1066MHz
    # NVIDIA® GeForce GT425M Graphics, NVIDIA® 3D Vision, 3DTV Play Capable
    # 2T2R WiFi 802.11b/g/n
    # 3 x USB 3.0
    # 7.1 CH HD Audio with THX TruStudio Pro™
    soon it will be on my hand,,, muhaha
  • 0 Hide
    teeth_03 , December 11, 2010 4:54 PM
    Your USB port totals are a bit off when you are forgetting the eSATA combo ports. So the Giada actually has 3, not 2, and so fourth.
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