ASRock ION 330 NetTop - HD Video and Final Thoughts

Article Index
ASRock ION 330 NetTop
Features and Specifications
Closer Look in the NetTop
Installation, Setup and Info.
Subsystem Tests and More
Benchmarking Continued...
HD Video and Final Thoughts
 

Real-World Performance:

We wrap up with a look at video decoding (watching).  We've used several HD Video clips at 1080p and 720p on both WMVHD and Quicktime H.264.  The Atom is not powerful enough to process this video on its own and if it weren't for the ION chipset from NVIDIA the system would choke.  To make things interesting, I thought I'd throw in a performance comparison with an AMD Phenom II processor on a ASRock board with the 790G chipset and an HD4850 graphics card.  The AMD system is significantly more powerful, but it is not as optimized for video playback as the ASRock ION 330 system.

HD Video

 

In over half of the tests, the dinky little ION system has lower CPU usage than the desktop competition and this bodes very well for the ION platform.  The most noticeable win is when decoding H.264 content - as is the case with the "Ruby - WhiteOut" video.  The ION beats out the competition by 13% CPU load.

 

Power Consumption and Multi-Core Action:

The ASRock ION 330 is not a first-generation Atom platform.  The Intel Atom has been around for quite a while, but the ION is relatively new and the combination of these as put together by ASRock is a nice choice.  It amazes me that such a low power processor can do so much, yet at the same time be gutless when trying to do real tasks like audio encoding.  At idle this little system draws a mere 26W, while playing back HD movies brings up the power usage to 34W.  Even when running with the CPU pinned at 100%, the ASRock ION never consumed more than 38W on our bench.  That is impressive and worth considering if you need a little machine to do web surfing and light office tasks.

Loaded

The Atom 330 supports HyperThreading and this is why Windows 7 shows a total of four logical processors.  The Atom is capable of choking through four threads at the same time.

 

Conclusion:

If you're considering a cheap PC for a second computer and only have about $400 to spend and need a machine with some power, you should consider picking up a cheap Dell, Acer or HP.  Consumers looking for a super small form factor PC however, should seriously consider the ASRock ION 330 NetTop.  This little machine is long on features and offers good looks, average performance and great functionality - all it a little package.  It is far superior to the Eee Box that I've installed at several Kiosks, but you have to remember that it is still a low-performance machine.  Don't let the dual-core CPU fool you, it's not meant for massive computational tasks. 

When it comes to HD Video performance, this unit shines like the sun after a rainy week.  It decodes any 720p or 1080p video without issues and is an H.264 behemoth.  The included DVDRW drive also gives it an edge over much of the competition, and ASRock even has a model of the ION 330 with a slim-line Blu-Ray drive as well.  It's made for the consumer looking to put together a small HTPC.  The ASRock ION is the king in this market.

Pros:

  • Small ITX form factor
  • ION Chipset gives the Atom some life
  • Dual-core 330 with HyperThreading
  • HDMI + VGA output
  • Lots of USB ports for a little machine
  • Includes internal DVDRW drive
  • Super quiet

 

Cons:

  • Price - at $400 you can get a much more powerful non-ITX machine

  BCCRating

Gold

Although I've listed the price as a "Con", you have to keep in mind that this machine competes in an entirely different market than HP, Dell and Acer with their desktop PCs.  For a loaded ITX machine, it's not a bad deal at all.  If you are looking for the perfect small HTPC, I daresay that this is probably as close as you're going to get.  It's great.