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|
|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|
|Platform/Graphics Driver||GeForce/Ion 185.85 for Vista/Win7|
|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|