One of the Zotac ION board's major selling points is it's nVidia based integrated graphics, which at least on paper is far superior to Intel's offering. First, we'll take a look at how well the GeForce 9400M handles 1080p High Definition media.
Measuring the 9400's ability in this part of the test is recorded in terms of CPU Utilisation, where less is better. I was left very impressed by an average usage of 22-25%. It should also be noted that the 7.1 sound device functioned perfectly via HDMI and the quality was excellent.
Next is a short session of Battlefield 2, a game released in 2005. At the time of release it was a very demanding game. Let's see how today's embedded CPU solutions cope with the game.
The image quality wasn't exactly amazing particularly without any Anti Aliasing or Anisotrophic Filtering applied but the general fluidity of game play was respectable. As you can see from the minimum framerates achieved, the game play did feel a little choppy at times. I'd also like to point out that while in our testing the frame rates topped out at a rather frisky 72fps, these were exceptional peaks and the lower average figure shows that performance was skewed to the lower half of the 18fps to 72fps range.
Call of Duty 4, a more recent release was a little too demanding for the little ION platform despite playing in a lower resolution with no Anti Aliasing or Anisotrophic Filterising. That being said, the GeForce 9400 based graphics prevented the game from being a complete slide show, which I’m sure would have happened if we were dealing with an Atom platform paired with the Intel 945GC’s integrated graphics.
FarCry 2 didn’t fare particularly well and to be frank it was to be expected. Such games simply cannot run well on this platform.
The results may not seem all that impressive upon initial impression but when one considers that it's coming from a CPU that consumes as much as an energy saver lamp and an integrated graphics module, it must be admitted that the motherboard performed admirably well.
We set aside a fairly large number of Synthetic Benchmarks to evaluate various aspects of the Zotac ION.
Clear proof that this platform is definitely not for games though 1396 marks is definitely not abysmal for what it is. I however would suspect that the Intel Atom CPU is actually bottlenecking the ability of the GeForce 9400M. More on that later.
Cinebench R10 64bit
This is a highly CPU intensive application that renders a picture, times how long it took and then provides a corresponding score. It goes without saying but we knew from the beginning that this application probably wouldn't bode well with the Atom but considered it a worthwhile application to use regardless.
We were right. It performed rather poorly when compared to fully fledged CPU's. It wasn't so bad when used in Multi Core mode however and with the help of Hyperthreading Technology, there was a speedup of 2.77x when compared to the same test in Single Core mode. The Zotac ION is unlikely to ever have to see this sort of abuse at the homes it'll most likely go to.
SiSoft Sandra – CPU Performance - Processor Arithmetic Test
The Processor Arithmetic test had been chosen as a means of understanding the capability of the Atom Dual Core processor. Using SiSoft Sandra's CPU figures, we also had a means of comparing the CPU to others.
The results are far from appauling. Our results show the Atom Dual Core performing in a similar ballpark to Intel's 1.0-1.2GHz Core 2 Duo Mobile processors. Perfect for home use and as found in our previous testing, it's still adequate for reliable media playback.
SiSoft Sandra – Chipset Performance – Memory Bandwith Test
The nForce 7 MCP chipset offers support for RAM up to DDR2-800 frequencies in Dual Channel mode. This test should indicate whether such memory can be well harnessed on the ION 330 ITX.
The results indicated above are considerably lower than the expected ballpark figures with a traditional desktop setup with the same DDR2-800 RAM. The figures presented are nearer the bandwith figures expected from DDR2-400 / 533 sets. While, circa 2.5GB/sec is not exactly going to hinder the performance of a system built around the Atom platform, it still raised an eyebrow.
Sisoft Sandra – Wireless Performance Test
This test revealed fairly mediocre performance from the inbuild Atheros Wireless Adapter when compared to other equipment. I should note however that until executing this benchmark I had not even noticed the exceptionally high latency and low data transfer rate.
SiSoft Sandra – Hard Disk Performance
The results achieved were exactly as expected for this particular Hard Disk Drive. From this we did not observe any weaknesses in the motherboard’s SATA performance.
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