Power Consumption And Pricing
If the Ion platform is to assert itself anywhere, it’s here. The 90W power brick that Zotac ships with the motherboard suggests we’ll see particularly low numbers from the mini-ITX configuration.
Indeed, Zotac’s Ion board does incredibly well. At idle, it uses less than half of what AMD’s Athlon X2 7850 dual-core processor consumes—even with Cool’n’Quiet enabled. Under load, though, the difference is much more significant: 114 W separate the two solutions.
If low-power computing is your thing and you don’t mind the performance implications of an Atom-based PC, you won’t be able to come anywhere close to Zotac’s Ion board using desktop-class hardware.
Granted, we could have done significantly better in the power department had we been a little choosier with our CPU. The Athlon X2 7850 was attractive due to its $69 price tag, 2.8 GHz clock speed, and unlocked multiplier, but its Kuma core is still rated at 95 W. You can dip down to the $60 Athlon X2 5050e (running at 2.6 GHz) and cut your maximum TDP down to 45W for $10 less.
As mentioned, retail pricing on the ION-ITX-A-U (the version of the board with Intel’s dual-core Atom 330) is set at $189, though it should be available for $10 less at e-tail.
Launching alongside the dual-core model are the ION-ITX-B-E with a single-core Atom N270 at 1.6 GHz, no WiFi, and no bundled power supply, the ION-ITX-C-U with the N270 plus power supply, and the ION-ITX-D-E with an Atom 330 and WiFi (and without the PSU).
The micro-ATX system we built to compare against the ION-ITX-A-U is priced to go against Zotac’s e-tail target. Though online prices are going to change constantly, as of the night before publication, the MA78GM-US2H motherboard was $74 before a $10 MiR, AMD’s Athlon X2 7850 was listed at $69, and Enermax’s ETK405AST was listed at $44 (that’s $187 total, not counting the MiR).