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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  • -BubbaJoe- - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    We need a review on the new Asus M4A88T-I DELUXE
    Its a mini-itx motherboard for AM3 with a crapton of features (usb 3 wifi n, bluetooth, etc)

    I already purchased this board and I can attest, the thing is awesome, the 95w cpu support is a bit lacking but I have it paired with an Athlon II x3 445 (3.1ghz), you can even put one of the quad core phenoms or the lower power 6 cores that are supposed to be out soon. It absolutly flies with the 5770. I'd just like to see a full review and what kind of over clock potential it has on a small wattage psu (my case came with a 300w).

    Just more exposure to the awesomeness that is mini-itx at a price point lower than Intel.
  • hvakrg - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    If this had come with a chipset that could bitstream TrueHD I'd be all over it, replace Ion with MR5xxx and it would be great.
  • ssj3gohan - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    I have a much-overlooked but very serious request to the Anandtech testers - I know we readers demand a lot but this is not that bad a request I think.

    In building the odd core i3 system, even with the excellently power-efficient Intel DH55TC board, I get idle power of around 20W and load power of around 50W. While that 20W figure is actually very favourable from a heat/noise/performance per watt point of view, the load power isn't, especially when we're looking at these types of systems aimed at low power. People feel they really have to choose: go for the truly low-power SU7xxx/Atom-based system but give up the ability to... well, really do any real computing, and on the other hand go for the full-featured system but having to cope with the necessary active cooling and power drain.

    This is not true, because core i3 and i5 processors actually undervolt quite a bit. I have undervolted systems very non-aggressively (mind the prefix 'non') and gained over 12W difference in load power: that is still 20W idle power, but just 38W under load. That is very competitive with the CULV-stuff around there, especially considering the MASSIVE performance increase. The real power zealots will probably say I have to use a picopsu to get everything even more efficient but that is really not worth the cost anymore in this realm. Undervolting is, and that is why I ask you to consider this in future benchmarks of this kind of systems.
  • ProDigit - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    You got all the extra options, but nowhere near enough low power to compete with netbooks.
    Also no multi-thread compatibility.
  • Necrosaro420 - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    What is that coax cable for?
  • Rajinder Gill - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

  • Gigantopithecus - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    IMHO overpriced across the board. (Pun intended.)
  • Cerb - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    Otherwise, it looks very...OK. But no such system, today, needs a fan. Given the cost of the whole thing, it would easily be worth an extra $10-15 to have a proper heatsink for it all, instead.

    Even if they did that, though, Mr. Gill's conclusion about what you get for the price would still keep it from being a great buy.
  • hvakrg - Saturday, August 28, 2010 - link

    "That leaves one more weapon in IONs current repertoire that may factor in swaying a purchasing decision; XBMC support - it appears Clarkdale is not currently/well supported by Linux for such use. If looking for full media center functionality, ION remains the better choice."

    XBMC is not the only media center application out there, and it does not even offer full media center functionality with it's lack of basic TV-support. Mediaportal on the other hand does.
  • KOOLTIME - Saturday, August 28, 2010 - link

    I use it running WIN 2008 server, is been excellent for that. No not a high demand server, but its perfect for file share, DHCP, back up server. Super low cost for a low demand server is unbeatable.

    Mines been runing great since i set it up no problems whatsoever, its low power and low profile make it excellent for running 24/7 at a cheep price for home network server.

    zotac w/atom 330 cpu - 2gb ram - 2x 1tb HD's + case - psu - cd drive all less then 400 bucks for the rig, and its been uptime 24/7 just over 6 months now with zero problems as my DHCP, file, proxy, and back up server.

    For home user that doesnt want to spend alot of money and has use for background computer services ( aka HTPC, file server, basic networking services, those types of things. Cant beet it for the cost. The small form and the low power means it can be on 24/7 with no big dents to the wallet.

    Only note I would recommend when getting these types of systems, is insure you get dual core or better type of CPU, the single cores simply dont have enough juice to not LAG the heck outta the system even for simple tasks as launching a web browser and such. A dual core least remains usable even though its not a speed deamon you can do basic stuff without waiting 2-5 mins per mouse click as some of these single core models do.

    Go test out an atom N450 vs a 330 and you will see why to not buy an N450 ever for use, those single cores are lag monkies.

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