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Test Setup And Benchmarks

Zotac's Ion Board On Windows 7: Nvidia Re-Arms Intel’s Atom
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In most of the comparisons we’ve seen, Ion has been pit against either a low-cost Intel G45-based desktop setup or a 945G-series Atom configuration. Given the strength of its IGP, we took it as a foregone conclusion that this setup would outperform Intel’s own mini-ITX D945GCLF2 Atom board (which incidentally costs $80 to the Ion’s $180).

So instead, we built a platform that cost the same amount of money, but relied more heavily on desktop-oriented hardware. We used a Gigabyte MA78GPM-DS2H micro-ATX motherboard (AMD 780G chipset with 128 MB side-port memory), AMD’s recently-released Athlon X2 7850 dual-core CPU, and an Enermax ETK405AST 405W power supply—all of which add up to $187, matching the CPU/motherboard/PSU combo being offered by Zotac.

Now, the contention from mini-ITX purists is going to be that our micro-ATX build can’t go into the same places. This is true. And we have a recommendation for the folks who just have to have mini-ITX coming up. It’s more expensive, though, and doesn’t make for an ideal performance comparison to Ion as a result.

And just to be clear, we would not recommend our AMD-based build as a better HTPC solution. Its lack of multi-channel LPCM audio (we haven’t even been able to get it to pass-through DD or DTS in Windows 7 with the Reaktek HDMI driver) precludes it from most semi-serious home theater efforts.

Test Hardware
Processors
Intel Atom 330 (Diamondville) 1.6 GHz, 441-ball FC-BGA, 533 MHz FSB

AMD Athlon X2 7850 BE (Kuma) 2.8 GHz, AM2+, 1,800 MHz HT, 2 MB L3 Cache, Power-savings disabled
Motherboards
Zotac ION-ITX-A-U Nvidia Ion Graphics Processor, BIOS N0508WZT

Gigabyte MA78GPM-DS2H (AM2+) 780G/SB700, BIOS F4
Memory
Corsair 4 GB (2 x 2 GB) DDR2-1066 5-5-5-15
Hard Drive
Intel X25-M 80 GB SATA 3 Gb/s Flash SSD
Graphics
Nvidia GeForce 9300

ATI Radeon HD 3200 w/ 128 MB Side-Port Memory
Power Supply
Enermax ETK405AST 405W ATX12V v.2.2
System Software And Drivers
Operating System
Windows Vista Ultimate Edition x86, Service Pack 1 / Windows 7 Release Candidate x86
DirectX
DirectX 10
Platform/Graphics Driver
GeForce/Ion 185.85 for Vista/Win7

Catalyst 9.4 for Vista/Win7

Benchmarks and Settings

3D Games

Left 4 Dead

Quality settings set to Low, 1280x720/720x480, latest Steam version, timed demo.

World of Warcraft
Quality settings set to Fair, 1280x720/960x600 (Ion) and 800x600 (780G platform), Patch 3.1.1, Ironforge circuit, Fraps (120 seconds).

Audio Encoding

iTunes

Version: 8.1, 32-bit, Audio CD ("Terminator II" SE), 53 min., Default format AAC

Lame MP3

Version: 3.98 (32-bit), Audio CD ""Terminator II" SE, 53 min, wave to MP3, 160 Kb/s

Video Encoding

Mainconcept Reference 1.6.1

MPEG2 to MPEG2 (H.264), MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG2), Audio: MPEG2 (44.1 KHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Mode: PAL (25 FPS), Profile: Tom’s Hardware Settings for Qct-Core

Applications

Winrar 3.80

Version 3.80, Benchmark: THG-Workload (334 MB)

Winzip 12

Version 12, Compression=Best, Benchmark: THG-Workload (334 MB)

Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings

3DMark Vantage

Version: 1.02, GPU and CPU scores

PCMark Vantage

Version: 1.00, System, Memory, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks, Windows Media Player 10.00.00.3646

SiSoftware Sandra 2009 SP3

CPU Test=CPU Arithmetic/MultiMedia, Memory Test=Bandwidth Benchmark

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