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.
|CPU Compatibility|| |
|Name||Intel® Atom™ 330 (dual-core) (1.6 GHz) Intel® HyperThreading™ technology|
|Front-side bus||533 MHz|
|Memory Compatibility|| |
|Memory Type||2 x 240-pin DIMM 667/800 MHz Slots|
|Graphics Compatibility|| |
|Interface||1 x PCI-Express 2.0 16x|
|Integrated Graphics|| |
|USB 2.0||6 x Rear / 4x Front|
|Video Output||1 x HDMI w/ 7.1 Channel Audio, 1 x DVI, 1 x VGA|
|Wireless Adapter|| |
|Type||Mini PCI-Express (Internal)|
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.