Desktop Systems Guide

ASRock Nettop ION 330-BD review

Pint-sized HD Cruncher - ASRock Nettop ION 330-BD

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Test Setup & HD Video Playback Performance

Test Setup

We'll be comparing the ASRock ION 330-BD closely against Zotac's DIY Ion kit and the Acer AspireRevo. To spice things up, we've also added NVIDIA's Ion prototype and Intel's very own D945GCLF2 Atom kit. As it stands, we expect performance of the ION 330-BD to be very close to that of the Zotac DIY Ion kit. However, we expect it to be a tad slower because of its slower 5400rpm hard disk versus the Zotac DIY Ion kit where we've used our own standard Seagate 7200rpm hard drive. Do note that for a select few benchmarks, we'll also be throwing in comparisons with a beefier desktop-class IGP motherboard and CPU which we'll point out where applicable. Here's how the ASRock ION 330-BD comapares against the competition in tech specs:-

Comparing the ASRock Nettop ION 330-BD
Specifications/ System ASRock Nettop ION 330-BD Zotac Ion Motherboard Acer AspireRevo NVIDIA Ion Intel D945GCLF2
Processor Intel Atom 330 (1.6GHz, dual-core) with 1MB L2 cache Intel Atom 330 (1.6GHz, dual-core) with 1MB L2 cache Intel Atom 230 (1.6GHz, single-core) with 512KB of L2 cache Intel Atom 330 (1.6GHz, dual-core) with 1MB L2 cache running a single core Intel Atom 330 (1.6GHz, dual-core) with 1MB L2 cache
Chipset NVIDIA ION NVIDIA Ion NVIDIA Ion NVIDIA Ion Intel 945GC
Memory 2GB DDR2 2GB DDR2 2GB DDR2 2GB DDR3 1GB DDR2
Video NVIDIA Ion (256MB) NVIDIA Ion (256MB) NVIDIA Ion (256MB) NVIDIA Ion (256MB) Intel GMA950 (128MB)
HDD Seagate Momentus 5400.6 SATA Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 SATA Hitachi 5400RPM SATA Seagate Momentus 7200.2 SATA Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 SATA

Also, The ASRock ION 330-BD comes with no operating system installed, we proceeded to install Windows Vista SP1 to ensure parity in our tests. We also installed the same ForceWare 185.55 drivers that were used on the Zotac DIY Ion kit and ensured that the onboard GeForce 9400M GPU was assigned with only 256MB of frame buffer. The following are the benchmarks that we'll be using:

  • PCMark05 (ver. 120)
  • PCMark Vantage
  • 3DMark06 (ver. 110)
  • Unreal Tournament 3 (version 1.1)
  • CyberLink PowerDVD 8.0 (for Blu-ray playback testing)

Blu-ray Playback Performance

To measure the systems' Blu-ray playback performance, CyberLink's PowerDVD 8.0 (build 2021) was used and we played a sampling of Black Snake Moan Blu-ray disc (H.264 encoded) while using Vista's built-in Performance Monitor utility to record CPU utilization figures.

Both the ASRock ION 330-BD and the Zotac DIY Ion kit are equipped with the same GeForce 9400M GPU. Therefore, we expected performance to be on a par. The ION 330-BD surprised us, however, recording a markedly low reading of 26.2% as compared to the Zotac DIY Ion kit's 35.8%. Considering the nearly identical specifications on both systems, our speculation is that it is the ION 330-BD's internal Sony Optiarc Blu-ray SATA drive that is contributing to this lower reading. The Zotac kit was using en external USB based Blu-ray drive. Acer's little machine didn't fare as well as the other two here due to its single-core processor.

Just for knowledge sake, we threw in the ASUS and Intel IGP desktop motherboards for comparison. They are based on the NVIDIA GeForce 9300 mGPU and Intel G45 chipsets respectively and were last tested with a Core 2 Duo E8500 CPU. While the ASUS motherboard undoubtedly fared well, you can see that the Intel G45 chipset was quite dependant on the CPU even with a very fast processor. By contrast, the Ion platforms with a simple Atom processor (don't forget to factor in that these have hyper-threading enabled) are able to handle just as well or better, putting the Intel G45 chipset to shame.