Regular fare from ZOTAC here, with Atheros WiFi included as standard. Realtek’s ALC662 six channel analogue audio out is sub-par at the price point we feel as some users prefer full 7.1 channel output capability. What’s in the box?

1 x Rear I/O plate

2 x SATA Cables

1 x SATA to Molex connector

1 x User Guide

1 x Quick Installation Guide

1 x Support CD

2 x WiFi aerials

Nothing surprising here, although we’d like to have seen three SATA cables instead of two given that the board has three SATA ports. The manuals are well written and easy to follow, so setup should be painless. There’s no bundled software to report on, so we can move on to the BIOS and short user expereince.

For everyday use, ZOTAC’s BIOS provides adequate functionality, although there are a few areas that could do with a touch of attention to bring this board in line with ION offerings from ASUS. The memory control section could do with a bit of a buff, as there’s no way to set important timings like tRCD above 7 clocks manually. The board will select SPD values higher than this when left to AUTO, but should you wish to set things yourself, a range of one to seven clocks is the limit.

Under-voltage control is also limited to a maximum of 0.1V below stock. We don’t see it as a huge deal breaker given the already low power consumption of the platform, but others might. The overclocking side of things is workable, however there is no self-recovery feature built into the BIOS; the only way to get the board to POST if a setting is wrong or out of stable range is to clear CMOS. We mention this only because our ASUS ION board recovers automatically in such situations.

One thing that is pleasing is that wake from S3 works even from USB. We know early iterations of ION were plagued by issues so took special precautions to check things out. We also tested compatibility with our ASUS Xonar D2X PCIe soundcard and encountered no problems during use. We're hoping this is a sign that users won't encounter any problems when using TV tuner cards and such in the PEG slot.

Unfortunately, the ZOTAC BIOS lacks any kind of workaround for enabling the NVIDIA IGP when a discrete ATI GPU is used in PEG slot. This is a feature that many vendors have managed to hack into their H55 motherboards, so it would be nice to see something similar done with ION. We've passed this suggestion on to ZOTAC and they are looking into implementing it in a future BIOS if at all possible.

Board Overview Testbed Setup and Power Consumption
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  • Powerlurker - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    XFX just released a single-slot 5770 which would probably be a great match for a more gaming oriented mini-ITX system.
  • -BubbaJoe- - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    I'm using a Asus M4A88T-I DELUXE + Athlon x3 445 + a 5770 in a silverstone sg05, thing plays BF2:BC2 at max settings at 1080p

    I think this qualifies as a mini-gamer :D
  • chomlee - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    First off, I want to say that I have been watching the Ion chipset and was really thinking of purchasing an itx board last year so I could put together a mini HTPC.

    Here is the issue. I recently purchased a patriot box office for $65.00 at newegg and for an extra $60.00, I put in a 500 gig hard drive. I have a file server that I keep all my pictures, music, and movies on and I stream it over my home network.

    Anyhow, my point is, as far as HTPCs go, my patriot box office does everything I need. I even am able to stream blue ray iso files over the network with flawless playback (using NFS, not SAMBA). The only downside is that it has a very plain gui and unlike a ION mini itx, you cant install XBMC on it. Anyhow, with the availability of boxes like this that are extra small and cheap and other devices such as the boxee box comming out in November, there doesn't seem to be a niche anymore for HTPCs unless you plan on some moderate gaming.
  • kmshark - Saturday, August 28, 2010 - link

    I had bad performance with my MKV Bluray files over the network using the PBO... it would play but had intermittent drops/etc. I though it was due to my MKV files being full 1080p + 5.1 or 6.1 FLAC just too much - but I was doing this via SAMBA from my 2K8 server.... so maybe it works better via NFS? For your ISOs, are you playing the hi-def audio?
  • mino - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    While Clarkadle has more rwa power the drivers are STILL a mess.

    Case in point - a STUPIDLY PRIMITIVE DX8 Worms World party simply crashes on Intel IGP while it runs happily on any ATI/NV IGP since 2004 ...

    While Intel seems to has invested heavily in support for benchmarks and current titles (aka review titles) the general 3D support is still a nightmare.
  • Cerb - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    Yes, it is. Even not counting GMA500, it is. One more reason to look forward to Bobcat; and for normal machines, to go AMD. The added single-threaded i3 performance is small, and made up for quite well, especially if you stick to 785 or newer IGP.
  • CSMR - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    A combination of old tech. Why would anyone bother with this? It's even more expensive than Clarkdale. Now a Clarkdale CULV would be more interesting.
  • sprockkets - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    Seeing as how Zotac's ION Atom boards are priced, this isn't bad at all. Just wish the pci slot was faster.

    In any case, I prefer a system be fanless and compact, which that H55 board isn't. This might come close.

    While having a built in PS is nice, what if it breaks? There goes the whole board. Besides the cases this would go into already have ITX sized power supplies anyhow. The one here is nice since it allows for an optical drive and two 2.5 drives: one SSD and one high capacity notebook drive.
  • Wineohe - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    Having experienced the trials and tribulations of Nvidia's GF8300 onboard graphics over HDMI in an ASUS board for AM2, I will not soon sign up again. I can't imagine buying a board with these chipsets. It's indicated in the review that they had no issues. Did you confirm that the HDMI works flawlessly? Did you check to see if it would work with an AV Receiver of switch. Can you adjust for over scan on a 720P Television in the NVidia control panel. Can you effectively adjust resolution at all over HDMI? Does the HD sound work perfectly after every reboot.

    Again not for me.
  • sprockkets - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    "Stepping out to a discrete GPU, the ION systems get blasted to smithereens by the i3-540. ION lacks the raw muscle required to handle the GTX 275. 1.875GHz is the maximum stable frequency we achieved on our processor without running out of cooling headroom."

    That's not ION's fault if the pci slot is really x16m, that's the fault of having a low clocked CPU and an older generation one to boot.

    Still, for the average person, this is much better than Atom. Same thing is happening on the laptop front as well.

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