Zotac ION ITX-F Motherboard

Introduction

Introduction
 
Chip giant Intel has rarely ceased to impress since it's striking comeback against AMD in 2006 with it's Core 2 Duo series processor. Even today, the firm still holds the performance crown with it's behemoth Core i7 monster solutions. But who says that Intel should be most recognised for it's upper end processors? After all, it is only a rather select proportion of end users that intend on buying such equipment. We are not reviewing the bang per buck Intel Pentium Dual Core processors or the Celeron Dual Core range. Today, we shall be turning the spotlight on the Intel Atom 330 Dual Core / nVidia ION Platform Pairing...again. As a matter of fact, the Atom motherboard up for review today is from the same brand and product family as the motherboard we previously reviewed as well. To understand why we agreed to have a play with this particular product, let's talk about it's constituent product family and brand.
 
Zotac is a manufacturer of motherboards and graphics cards that has seen a large rise in popularity and growth over the last few years. The year of 2009 has made Zotac very well known for Mini ITX motherboards, including the mighty GeForce 9300-ITX, which offers support for all LGA775 Core 2 Duo/Quad/Extreme processors as well as a full size PCI-Express 16x slot. We also rated the Mini ITX ION-A Motherboard very highly for it's excellent integrated graphics performance and it's highly comprehensive feature set. This brings us to the latest addition to the Mini ITX family, the ION ITX-F.
 
Specifications 
CPU Compatibility 
NameIntel® Atom™ 330 (dual-core) (1.6 GHz) Intel® HyperThreading™ technology
Front-side bus533 MHz
Memory Compatibility 
Memory Type2 x 240-pin DIMM 667/800 MHz Slots
Maximum Capacity4GB
Graphics Compatibility 
Interface1 x PCI-Express 2.0 16x
Integrated Graphics 
TypeGeForce "ION"
Ports 
USB 2.06 x Rear / 4x Front
SATA3
e-SATA1
Ethernet10/100/1000Mbps
PS/21
Video Output1 x HDMI w/ 7.1 Channel Audio, 1 x DVI, 1 x VGA
Wireless Adapter 
TypeMini PCI-Express (Internal)
Standard802.11n
 
Like it's siblings, it features the well regarded ION graphics module based on the GeForce 9400M chipset, 3 SATA II ports, HDMI/DVI/VGA, 6 external USB with scope for another 4 and an integrated 802.11n Wireless module. This particular model has lost a feature and gained one. So what's the damage? The good news is that this version of the ION ITX series sports a PCI-Express 16x port for graphics cards. The bad news however is that as a consequence it has lost it's integrated 90W passive power supply unit. This is understandable given that the previously supplied power brick would not have stood much of a chance at powering a dedicated graphics card along with the rest of the system.
 
At the heart of the ION ITX-F motherboard lies a very special processor, called the Intel Atom 330. It's speciality is certainly not a thing to do with brute power but rather power efficiency where it's performance per watt is highly competitive. It's performance is said to be adequate for it's intended purposes but inevitably struggles with anything particularly strenuous. With this in mind, I'm sure that many of you might be scratching your heads, raised an eyebrow and/.or grunted in an inquisitive manner, right? More to the point, I think what some of you could well be wondering is what a PCI-Express 16x slot is doing on an Intel Atom 1.60GHz powered motherboard. Our previous review hinted that the motherboard's integrated Atom 330 processor bottlenecks the inbuilt GeForce 9400M module, let alone anything faster. So will Zotac's latest pint size offering be a hit or just a gimmick? Let's find out.
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Most Recent Comments

15-12-2009, 19:50:07

tinytomlogan
Mul takes a look at Zotacs latest Mini ITX offering.

Continue Reading

16-12-2009, 19:04:46

Diablo
Nice review, but seems a bit of an odd combination. The only point of the pcie slot is for gpus but the cpu hasn't got the grunt. If you want an HTPC, you would be better off with the previous ion board, for gaming the 9300 775.

I suppose you could run a decent home media server with the pcie slot used for a high performance raid card and have all your movies and music piped all over the house?

17-12-2009, 09:26:30

Rastalovich
Excellent read.

I think the phoneyness of the artificial benchmarks raise their ugly head here and shouldn't be too frowned upon in judgement.

The CoD4 w/8800gt is still impressive for me. Would like to have seen the stock 1.6 w/8800gt, but sneakingly think it'll be as-good, or good enough.

Would be nice to have dropped an AMD HD4xxxx+ card in there too to see how much the cpu effects the driver dependence.

It's certainly a different science than a regular mobo/cpu, and I like what it's achieving as I liked the previous models.

Soon as all the 775 kit I have goes south, I'd certainly consider for a htpc/media front room effort, with a gfxcard that u can keep in reserve. Although by the time that comes, there'll be new kit about I'm sure.

Good stuff, love a comment on the onboard sound.

17-12-2009, 10:14:55

Mul.
@Diablo

You have a fair point about the PCI-Express 16x slot. Even if you don't wish to use a dedicated graphics card, you're free to drop a PCI-E 1x/2x/4x card instead.

@Rasta

As far as the sound chip goes, there wasn't a lot to report. The sound quality itself when paired with a Cambridge Audio 5.1 set was more than acceptable and the cpu utilisation was low and of little concern. During this review, I didn't have access to a Monitor/TV with inbuilt speakers and so sound over HDMI could not be tested however I had no complaints with the onboard sound.

Thanks for the feedback.

17-12-2009, 10:35:36

tinytomlogan
I was thinking it would be best to use as a mini fold rig with the pcie, super lower power ect. Or drop a nice sound card in and have it as a high end HTPC.

21-12-2009, 08:15:03

Shinho
Very good Mobo for a HTPC machine.

22-12-2009, 06:45:30

sammytomjohn
Quote:
Originally Posted by name='Shinho'
Very good Mobo for a HTPC machine.
not a very good price tho!

01-12-2013, 20:12:22

chuck4100
Anyone have any luck with overclocking one of these?
Reply
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