Test Setup And Benchmarks
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.
|Processors||Intel Atom 330 (Diamondville) 1.6 GHz, 441-ball FC-BGA, 533 MHz FSB|
|Row 1 - Cell 0||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|
|Row 3 - Cell 0||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|
|Row 7 - Cell 0||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|
|Platform/Graphics Driver||GeForce/Ion 185.85 for Vista/Win7|
|Row 13 - Cell 0||Catalyst 9.4 for Vista/Win7|
|Benchmarks and Settings|
|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).|
|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|
|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|
|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|
If you knew you could have done better with a 45W not a 95W processor .. what gives? The supplier didn't have it in stock or why go for the obvious power monster?
On a different note, I'm looking forward to the transcoding article.
How many people will use this as a satellite PC in their homes, and what ever happened to Windows Home Server? I would think you let your central PC/server handle the computing and just use this guy as a remote terminal to stream media to.
First, I put all of the above mentioned components and put them into the case from the original Xbox (while maintaning totally stock appearances except for the back.
Second, the board boots lightning fast, and is a pleasure to work with.
Third, before we put the 9800GT into the build, using the same 9300 chipset as the Ion platform, we were running HL2 on max settings at 1680x1050 resolution (except with only 2x AA) and getting 35-45 FPS. We also played Halo 2 on medium settings and that played very well also. Obviously, after the 9800 was added, the computer flies. That just goes to show you that the Atom really is what is holding back the capabilities of the 9300 chipset.
All of this was accomplished with about $500, so it is a good budget computer that is inside of an Xbox. My i7 system has nothing on the "coolness" factor of this computer.
The difference between 9300 and 9400 is clock speed. This one is slower than the 9300, even.
Thanks sub: fixed!