Zotac ION ITX-F Motherboard

Conclusion

Conclusion
 
Zotac does it again. Built upon the Zotac ION ITX-A motherboard that we previously reviewed, it came to no surprise that we were going to like the ITX-F. As far as common features are concerned, we very much like the stability, overclockability and board layout. From a feature perspective, we also appreciate the implementation of an internal 802.11n Wireless Adapter and most importantly, the ION MCP/GPU. With that in mind, let's focus on the three key differences between the ITX-A/F boards. PCI-Express 16x, a £20 lower price tag and the absence of a passive power brick.
 
Let's start with that PCI-Express 16x slot. Gaming is without a doubt a weakness for the Atom platform and who would expect otherwise? The ION chipset does hold up reasonably well and is likely to play pre 2005 era games reasonably well. In our examples, Call of Duty 4 was beginning to struggle at 1280x1024 (albeit with higher detail applied) and the horrendously system intensive Flight Simulator X was near enough unplayable. There's no getting around the fact that our GeForce 8800GT was bottlenecked by the Atom like triangular wheels on an Aston Martin DB9 however that is not to say that dropping a faster graphics card into the mix will offer no performance increase, as Call of Duty 4 proves. The simple fact however is that one would be better off buying a Zotac GeForce 9300-ITX motherboard and an Intel Pentium E5xxx series processor for similar money to form the core of an ultra portable gaming desktop for around £160. I for one don't believe that gaming was the word running through Zotac's mind when they created this motherboard however. Think GPU parallel processing. During our testing, we were able to offload two different types of tasks which would otherwise command a hefty processor onto the GPU. The idea is that over time, application designers will make more use of the untapped potential inside today's graphics processing cores, but for now we'll have to sit back and wait as it could take a while...
 
Now let's talk price. We don't have a retail price for the motherboard however we have spotted a retailer that is currently selling the ION ITX-F for £159. At this price, it's difficult to consider it value for money by any stretch of the imagination. Like anything however, there is a price to pay for everything and in this case you're paying for low power consumption, noise and for it's small size. For those who want a small yet simple machine, I would personally opt for the PCI-Express'less versions which range from £90-130 depending on brand. For the wide majority that wish to have gaming based GPU performance, they're also better off looking elsewhere. However, there are a small proportion of users that take full advantage of GPU Parallel Processing applications that will no doubt appreciate such an offering. With that in mind, perhaps pairing an Atom 330 with a GeForce GTX 285 isn't all that crazy if you're a Folding@Home nut.
 
All in all, we were left feeling impressed with Zotac's latest Intel Atom based offering. If I had any reservations at all, it would be price. A number of months ago when the brand were near enough first to market with ION based Atom Desktop Motherboards, the pricing was somewhat understandable. Today however, with offerings from Asus, Point of View and Albatron at similar or lower prices, it stands to reason that perhaps some price adjustments to retain a competitive edge might be worth considering. Otherwise, well done Zotac.
 
The Good
- Feature Set
- Board Layout
- Integrated GPU Performance
- Good WiFi performance
- Aesthetics
 
The Mediocre
- Passive operating not possible
- Pricing
 
The Bad
- None
 
 
 
 
We would like to thank Zotac for sending this in for review, you can discuss this, and many others in our forums.
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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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