Three Slim Atom/Ion 2-Based Nettop PCs Compared

HD Video Benchmarks

We begin with CPU usage. We don’t expect much of a difference between the Atom/Ion 2 solutions, but it will be interesting to see how this platform compares to the Core i3 mobile/Intel HD Graphics combo. Let’s begin with a 1080p Flash-based video:

While the Atom D500 series wields far less power than the Core i3 mobile CPU, the Core i3 uses significantly more CPU resources for playback. This means that the Ion 2 graphics chipset is doing a very good job of offloading the work to the GPU.

The only strange occurrence of note is that the Giada Slim-N20 shows the same low CPU usage, yet playback is only smooth in the YouTube default-sized window. When the Flash movie is full-screen at 1080p, playback is extremely choppy. It seems the problem is the screen resolution and not the resolution of the movie, as even low-resolution videos will drop frames when stretched to full screen. We've also experienced this problem with some h720p video files. Giada representatives insisted that this problem should not occur, but have been unable to provide a reasonable explanation or fix for our issue. This is not a problem on the Zotac or Jetway PCs, which could play back the Flash video file at full screen with no skipping whatsoever.

Now let’s move onto Blu-ray playback, something limited to the Zotac ZBOX and ASRock Core 100HT-BD:

Although CPU usage is low for both products, the order is reversed compared to Flash movie playback, with the Intel Atom/Ion 2 combo using more CPU resources to get the job done.

Finally, let’s examine video playback quality with the HQV 2.0 benchmark on these two Blu-ray-equipped systems. We need to enable some image-quality enhancements in the drivers for the best possible scores. In the Ion 2 driver, we enabled 60% edge enhancement, 70% noise reduction, inverse telecine, dynamic contrast, and color enhancement. In the Intel HD Graphics driver, we enabled noise reduction at the auto setting.

HQV Benchmark 2.0 Results
Nvidia Ion 2
Intel HD Graphics
Test Class 1: Video Conversion

Chapter 1: Video Resolution 18/2018/20
Chapter 2: Film Resolution 5/105/10
Chapter 3: Overlay on Film 5/105/10
Chapter 4: Response Time
Chapter 5: Multi-Cadence
Chapter 6: Color Upsampling Errors
Test Class 2: Noise and Artifact Reduction

Chapter 1: Random Noise
Chapter 2: Compression Artifacts
Chapter 3: Upscaled Compression Artifacts
Test Class 3: Image Scaling And Enhancements

Chapter 1: Scaling and Filtering
Chapter 2: Resolution Enhancement
Test Class 4: Adaptive Processing

Chapter 1: Contrast Enhancement
Chapter 2: Skin Tone Correction:
Total Score:

Nvidia’s Ion 2 solution scores 113 out of 210 here, which sounds a lot worse than it is. The Ion 2 is only really missing a handful of relatively obscure cadences and the ability to remove compression artifacts. The Intel HD Graphics chipset scores similarly to Ion 2, for the most part, but it doesn’t manage to perform flawless luma and chroma scaling, and has no adaptive contrast enhancements or skin-tone correction that I could find in the driver (only absolute adjustments). As a result, the Core i3-330M and its Intel HD Graphics chipset achieved a final score of 83 out of 210. Still, despite the relatively low score, both of these platforms offer great quality playback of Blu-ray discs. The test suite simply gives Nvidia's Ion 2 an edge in adaptive processing.

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  • reprotected
    Nettops fail.
  • DjEaZy
    ... it may be a good mac mini hackentosch...
  • hmp_goose
    Retest the N20's playback with a RAM drive for the temp files; I suspect the drive system is the issue . . .
  • dEAne
    Overall it is good. The benchmark is fair enough - And it is presentable too.
  • cushgod
    SHould test results with a SSD complared to a "mechanical" HDD to see how much that can help an Atom move along :)
  • fullcircle_bflo
    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?
  • kriminal
    ^^ guess so.. fullcircle
  • mchuf
    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.
  • nonameworks
    ^^ Only if you ignore the cost of electricity
  • tipoo
    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.
  • azcoyote
    I would love one of these for only one reason. To get rid of the clunky box I let my kids play games on. Not sure they have enough guts for the pig that is Flash though.
  • Anonymous
    The last page seems to imply that the Zotac box is the only one of the group lacking TrueHD. Is that correct?
  • gs92110
    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...
  • ethaniel
    Good read, and a good thing that you opened all of them.
    I'll pass on Nettops until they can easily handle games like Metro 2033 and Crysis with the highest settings.
  • ProDigit10
    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..
  • Sandburner20
    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?
  • JohnMD1022
    We can scratch the Giada immediately.

    Why you ask?

    A Seagate drive.

    Can anyone remember the Yugo? That's Seagate.
  • naturalandtech
    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
  • teeth_03
    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.