Last year one of the most exciting product combinations to grace consumer shelves was the NVIDIA’s ION platform teamed up with an Intel Atom processor. The ultra-low power consumption, low heat output and ability to play HD video better than competing solutions of the time made it a difficult combo to ignore. ZOTAC took full advantage of this and successfully filled a niche demand with a slew of ION based products, offering various levels of plug and play functionality.

It was only a matter of time though before Intel would present us with something new and at the turn of 2010, Clarkdale was launched. In many ways, Clarkdale turned out to be the perfect successor to Atom + ION based systems by doing almost everything better. Clarkdale’s IGP is capable of delivering high definition video and the platform also offers Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD-MA bitstreaming over HDMI - the latter a feature that eludes NVIDIA’s ION. Clarkdale also manages to deliver a lot more grunt should there be a need for the odd file zip or encode and can also be used to deliver a decent gaming experience with the addition of a discrete GPU thanks to an on-die PCIe controller. To boot, all of this comes within a rather attractive power consumption curve thanks to comprehensive power gating.   

Naturally, ZOTAC jumped on the Clarkdale bandwagon, and pulled the first H55 chipset based mini-ITX motherboard out of the hat back in February this year. Since then, several motherboard vendors have followed suit, and we’re at a point now where it makes very little sense to consider anything ION based for desktop use unless you’re on a really tight budget. It’s rather surprising then that ZOTAC are launching new ION based motherboards and media solutions today based around Intel’s CULV processors:

IONITX-P-E with the Celeron SU2300 - $169

IONITX-N-E with the Celeron 743 (single-core) - $130 USD

IONITX-O-E with the Pentium SU4100 - $200 MSRP BTO (built to order)

ZBOX HD-ND22 with SU2300 - $269.99

Zbox HD-NS21 with Celeron 743 - $199.99

We’ve got the IONITX-P-E model in house, and that’s what we’ll be looking at today:


 

The IONITX-P-E teams up a 1.2GHz CULV Celeron SU2300 with the ION GF9400 chipset. The MSRP for the P-E model is $170, while the Pentium SU4100 model will cost around $200. The SU4100 based board is a built on retail demand only product, though. So we’re not sure if you’ll see it on sale at all considering the $200 MSRP.  At the lower end of the scale, a single core Celeron 743 running at 1.3GHz should in theory appeal to uber-low power consumption enthusiasts.


 

 

Overall layout should be of no surprise to anyone familiar with mini-ITX; everything is accessible enough. The good news is that ZOTAC's choice of 60mm fan for CPU cooling is whipser quiet; with the board installed in a case you should find it inaudible.

Disappointingly, ZOTAC have chosen not to include a power brick with the IONITX-P-E, so you’ll need an ATX PSU. 

 

The rear panel offers all expected ports, including PS2 keyboard, HDMI, DVI, VGA D-SUB, six USB ports, eSATA, digital and analogue audio I/O, and onboard Wi-Fi. Put simply, something there for everyone.

Board Features & BIOS
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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.
    Reply
  • 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. Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • Necrosaro420 - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

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

    Wi-Fi Reply
  • Gigantopithecus - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    IMHO overpriced across the board. (Pun intended.) Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply

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