The nettop form factor is hard for the enthusiast community to swallow. On one hand, we want to love the fact that so much technology can be packed into such a small platform. On the other, it's frustrating to sit in front of a PC with so little performance compared to our full-sized (or even microATX) desktop machines.
Nevertheless, nettops are certainly better now than they were a year ago, thanks largely to the explosive popularity of mobile netbooks and the processing/graphics improvements aimed at that segment. While the earliest Atom processors were a little too anemic for my tastes, the Atom D500-series processors, with their dual-core, Hyper-Threaded resources, have taken nettop performance to a more respectable place. Similarly, Nvidia’s "next-generation" Ion platform pushes graphics performance beyond the basic functionality that a nettop would have had otherwise given Intel's track record in graphics.
Indeed, the nettop is bigger than its original billing lets on. It's able to handle more than just basic Internet browsing and word processing. But how much work can a modern nettop actually handle? How do Intel's Atom D500 processors compare to the comparatively powerful mobile Intel Core i3 CPU? Is the Ion 2 chipset strong enough to enable gaming from such a diminutive machine? Aside from raw benchmark performance, how responsive are today's nettops compared to more powerful desktop PCs?
These are the questions we set out to answer in today's story comparing three up-to-date nettops equipped with dual-core, Hyper-Threaded Atom CPUs and Nvidia's Ion 2 chipset. Our contenders: the Giada Slim-N20, the Jetway Mini-TOP, and the Zotac ZBOX.
|Giada Slim-N20||Jetway Mini-TOP||Zotac ZBOX HD-ID34|
|Chipset||Intel NM10||Intel NM10||Intel NM10|
|CPU||Intel Atom D510 Dual-Core, 1.66 GHz, 666 MHz FSB||Intel Atom D525 Dual-Core, 1.8 GHz, 800 MHz FSB||Intel Atom D525Dual-Core, 1.8 GHz, 800 MHz FSB|
|Graphics||Nvidia Ion 2 (GT218)Idle: 405 MHz core/810 MHz shadersLoad: 533 MHz core/1230 MHz shaders||Nvidia Ion 2 (GT218)Idle: 405 MHz core/810 MHz shadersLoad: 533 MHz core/1230 MHz shaders||Nvidia Ion 2 (GT218)Idle: 405 MHz core/810 MHz shadersLoad: 533 MHz core/1230 MHz shaders|
|Graphics Memory||512 MB GDDR3Idle: 405 MHz Load: 790 MHz||512 MB GDDR3Idle: 405 MHz Load: 790 MHz||512 MB GDDR3Idle: 405 MHzLoad: 790 MHz|
|System Memory||1 x 2 GB Hyundai PC2-6400 332 MHz DDR2, 5-5-5-15-2T||not included||1 x 2 GB Samsung PC2-6400332 MHz DDR2, 5-5-5-15-2T|
|Hard Drive||Seagate Momentus320 GB, 7200RPM, 16 MB Cache, SATA 3Gb/s||not included||Samsung Spinpoint250 GB, 5400 RPM, 8 MB Cache, SATA 3Gb/s|
|Optical Drive||not included||not included||Blu-ray/DVD/CD Combo Drive|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium||not included||not included|
|Memory Support||One 200-pin SO-DIMM DDR2-800/667, Up to 4 GB||Two 200-pin SO-DIMMs DDR2-800/667, Up to 4 GB||Two 200-pin SO-DIMMsDDR2-800/667, Up to 4 GB|
|I/O Panel Connectors|
|USB 2.0 (3.0)||2 (0)||4 (0)||1 (2)|
|Memory Card Reader||SD/MMC/MS/MS Pro||SD/MMC/MS||MMC/SD/SDHC/MS/MS Pro/xD|
|eSATA||1 (combo eSATA/USB 2.0)||1 (combo eSATA/USB 2.0)||1 (combo eSATA/USB 2.0)|
|Digital Audio Out||Optical/HDMI||HDMI/SPDIF||Optical/HDMI|
|Analog Audio||1 headphone and 1 mic jack||1 headphone and 1 mic jack||1 headphone and 1 mic jack|
|Mass Storage Controllers|
|Chipset SATA||1 x SATA 3.0Gb/s||1 x SATA 3.0Gb/s||1 x SATA 3.0Gb/s|
|Ethernet & Wireless|
|LAN||Realtek RTL8111C PCIe||Realtek RTL8111DL PCIe||Realtek RTL8111DL PCIe|
|Wireless||Atheros AR9285||Atheros 802.11 b/g/n PCIe Card||Atheros AR9285|
|HD Audio Codec||Analog & optical: Realtek ALC662 HDMI: Nvidia L-PCM digital audio||Analog: C-Media CM108AHHDMI: Nvidia L-PCM digital audio||Analog and optical: Realtek ALC888HDMI: Nvidia L-PCM digital audio|
|Audio Channels||Optical can support 5.1 output with external decoderHDMI and can support 7.1 output with external decoder||HDMI can support 7.1output with external decoder||HDMI and optical can support 7.1output with external decoder|
Those are the specifications—now let’s look at the hardware.