Nvidia's Ion: Lending Atom Some Wings

Benchmarks: 3DMark And PCMark

Below are the overall scores for the 3DMark 01, 03, 06 and PCMark 05 benchmarks, run at their default settings.

The various 3DMark tests clearly show the GeForce 9400M’s superior graphics power. With 3DMark03, the Ion platform tested over 4.6 times as fast as the basic Intel platform, and with 3DMark 06, the gain was an astounding 774%. The higher the graphics calculation load, the better the GeForce did. And our initial fears were put to rest—even the Atom’s low power let the GeForce show its stuff.

PCMark tests a platform in a much more global way; in this benchmark, the performance of the hard disk and memory contribute to the equation more effectively. Here again, despite an identical hard disk, the Ion walked all over the 945. When you look at the details of PCMark 05’s individual tests, however, you see that the Ion owes its victory only to the 3D tests—the rest of the applications were just as fast on the Intel platform. The Ion’s margin in the overall score was also much lower than it was with 3DMark (35%).

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  • rootheday
    Let's be clear - the Ion reference platform is for a nettop - not a netbook. Its based on the dual core Atom 330. I doubt very much that Ion with a single code Atom 230 or N270 would have enough horsepower to do the BD decryption required for BD playback.
  • matthieu lamelot
    Please, let me be clear : the platform reviewed was equipped with an Atom 230, not a 330, as is perfectly obvious from the pictures (one single die on the CPU package).
    And, yes, it's powerful enough (thanks to the 9400M) to smoothly playback a BD like Casino Royale (including the HDCP decryption). CPU utilization rose to around 67 % during that test.
    And even though the Ion ref platform is kind of a nettop (and we tested it with that in mind, comparing it to Intel's nettop platform), it could also fit in a netbook since 9400M TDP is very close to that of Intel 945GSE chipset that is found in most netbooks today : 12 W compared to 9,3 W. Nvidia and its partners would just need to drop 9400M's frequency a bit.
  • randomizer
    Matthieu, I'm not sure who makes the onboard sound, but if it's Realtek you need to have Stereo Mix enabled for CoD 4 to run. Also, I found that I couldn't start CoD4 (with what appears to be the same error even though I can't really understand it) without plugging in speakers. Yes, speakers. Although any output device might have sufficed.
  • mitch074
    Realtek codecs are quite common (thus I concur with randomizer); some are quite advanced in that they do automatic detection of what kind of hardware is connected to what pin (through best guess from device impedance, considering the low dB noise those codecs output they are some precise piece of ingineering), allowing autodetection of the sound setup (they will detect if you replace a microphone with a set of speakers, and switch configuration from stereo+microphone to 4.0 audio, for example; that requires driver support though).
    If CoD4 requires sound (some games are funny this way) and no hardware is plugged in, then the sound card may report a status CoD4 wasn't expecting, and refuse to run.
  • randomizer
    Well you'd think that they would have patched the game so that it doesn't have problems with needing Stereo Mix and output devices by now. What if my speakers are dead? That's just poor...
  • amnotanoobie
    I immediately looked at the benchmark images, instead of reading the accompanying text around it, and I thought "WTH is AMD (green bar) doing on the nVidia ION platform." I thought I was linked to another page of another review.
  • hei man pls ...for now nvidia platform has some advantages but with DX11 you will not need gpu any more ...so for now it's ok for future this platform will be nothing but dust
  • nukemaster
    You may not need a GPU, but a GPU is still far faster then the cpu at running games.

    Good review its about time Atom got a little help.
  • liemfukliang
    I wont buy atom until it can run PCMark Vantage, 3DMark Vantage. I don't mean it has to be high score, I just one it is finish the test and not error. :)
  • Tekkamanraiden
    I'd like to be able to buy one of those little reference systems. It would make a nice little HTPC.
  • gwolfman
    amnotanoobieI immediately looked at the benchmark images, instead of reading the accompanying text around it, and I thought "WTH is AMD (green bar) doing on the nVidia ION platform." I thought I was linked to another page of another review.

    LOL, I caught that too. "AMD green" == nVidia Ion. lol too funny
  • gwolfman
    Nice touch, :thumbsup:
  • PrangeWay
    Quick question on audio playback during BR playback, 7.1 Dolby/DTS HD?
  • scJohn
    Looking at the Setup page, it was not clear what kind of drive you used for the BR playback. Was it an internal or external drive?
  • trevorvdw
    Atom with Wings .. where do they keep those at the grocery store?
  • bounty
    330, BR/DVD burner, large HDD and a good tuner would be sweet. And 100Mb? come on, I want a server/htpc
  • bounty
    Actually make that dual GIG nic's. Or at least 100 and 1GB so I can do some content filtering too.
  • TheEvolution
    But the box looks ugly.....
  • danimal_the_animal
    other sites report WAAAAY better results, but they seem to have gotten the dual core atom motherboards....also i heard you can over clock the atom to 1.9ghz sweet for a dual core!
    I want one of these to replace my mythTV box in the front room....just waiting for mythtv ver. 0.22 and VDPAU to come out.

    right now i have a asus pn5-em using the onboard video to playback all HDTV content as well ans blueray rips....was using an e2180 clocked at 2.66ghz untill i ran into a problem with stargate and also step into liquid where the audio was out of sync...actually the videocard could not keep up....i had to give my mythbox a swift kick in the ass with a q6600 running at stock speed....now everything runs perfect....but heck isnt the q6600 a 95watt CPU or is it rated higher...either way i could CERTAINLY use this ION but in a dual core version....with VDPAU all video would be taken care of by the videocard and a dual core atom would make perfect sense for what i am doing!

    c'mon Nvidia...RELEASE this little box! i really need it for a mythTV front end...
  • FYI, the provided Ion sample's formfactor is NOT the Pico-ITX!

    It is instead the updated formfactor, the Pico-ITXe. The revision includes the SUMIT connections that are the mystery connections. http://www.samtec.com/search/sumit.aspx
  • danimal_the_animal

    isnt this the same sample everyone else got to test??? just that Tomshardware happend to get one with a single core rather than the dual core 330 that everyone else was getting?

    I wonder if they sent Toms hardware a single core sample just to rule out the need for a dual core....since everyone else got that version.

    what would be cool is if you could stack two boards together making it a quad or even more (scalable power) although i know the board probably only supports a single CPU....a board with two dual core CPU's on it sounds reasonable to me though!!!

    nice small quiet and efficient server.

    does the Atom have VM support?
  • roberotto
    Why be surprised about the serial port on the intel board? There is so much application for this aged port that nobody plan move to usb, and there's no gain for this. The parallel port is a blessing. For those who disagreed, the current notebook that I am writing has an proprietary adapter with two serial ports, two parallels (male + female), and has some others special ports. The side part is that it is relatively new (T7250/Centrino Duo/2gb ddr2), not a museum peace at all.
    The first time that I see this Intel platform, the only two things that comes in mind was industrial/house automation and thin clients.No need for six audio ports or so many sata connection in this usage. Nothing about games or hd video playback. One of the most used industrial touch panel runs on a Windows CE environment. I mind with this, we can improve the operator GUI and program in a more friendly ambient.
    But the nVidia counterpart is a awesome platform, but don't fits industrial port needs. And I agreed: it's perfect for the new Mac Mini.
  • cletus_slackjawd
    Good article, I should read again before posting but I won't.
    I'm not really sure what the intended market is for these. They are cool beans because small is cute and low power is always good but no mass storage in this form factor so rule out HTPC, still too weak for gaming. I suppose they would make for neat little machines for kiddos, or tinkerers like the enthusiast community here. Someone is going to overclock 'em with water cooling to attempt to run crysis! But seriously, what's the cost on these? I just built an MSI Wind desktop for a coworker who doesn't need to game, it's pretty awesome. I think adding graphics horsepower in this category is like a DVD player w/built in coffee maker. Just doesn't make much sense. Convince me otherwise. Oh, again good article seriously, and I'm glad Nvidia is competing in this segment with Intel. Performance and value will improve now.
  • Uncle Meat
    "Despite its proprietary physical format, this port is surely a PCI Express."

    It is surely not. The controllers for everything on the daughterboard are in the chipset.