The new generation ION platform based on Intel Atom processor from the Pineview family and discrete Nvidia GT218 graphics accelerator proved better than its predecessor. Although Nvidia didn’t manage to pair the new Atom CPU with their integrated core logic set, the configuration involving an additional graphics chip did in fact perform very well, despite all our initial concerns. Its performance was higher in all tests, while the power consumption remained just as low as that of the previous generation ION.
On the other hand, the qualitative performance gain achieved by adding a graphics processor with proprietary video memory didn’t really transform into quality. In other words, ION2 platform can execute the tasks faster than the previous generation ION, but at the same time it can’t target any completely new application fields. The primary reason for that is the fact that Nvidia cannot do anything about the ION2 processor performance, because it is the Atom that restricts the list the tasks a systems built around it can handle successfully. This is exactly why the gaming ION2 platform is totally worthless: even with low image quality settings contemporary games run really slow on it.
As a result, the best application for ION2 remains to be used as a media center – Nvidia platform has everything necessary for that purpose. However, even the first version of ION could cope with this task just fine. Moreover, even the regular Pine Trail platform without the additional graphics chip can do well as a media center, too, because you don’t need an additional graphics adapter for simple hardware support of HD video decoding. You can do perfectly fine by simply adding a hardware decoder into your system, such as the one from Broadcom, for example.
However, although the new generation ION platform has become more complex in terms of architecture, the end products based on these platforms cost about the same. Therefore, we can’t really give you any reasons to be unhappy with the new ION2. It is undoubtedly a step forward in the nettop solutions market.
As for the Zotac ZBOX HD-ID11 nettop we discussed today in our article, it is a worthy representative of the new Nvidia platform implementation in the end product. At a very affordable price point, it offers great exterior and compact size. And with simple assembly and great potential for internal and external expansion, Zotac ZBOX HD-ID11 becomes a very good nettop PC for various applications. Although the best fit for this system would be to function as a media center.
Speaking of the advantages Zotac ZBOX HD-ID11 has to offer, we can’t help mentioning a few drawbacks as well. We were a little upset that this system doesn’t use the fastest Intel Atom processor available in the today’s market. Maybe if they had integrated an Atom D525 processor into it, it could please us with higher performance numbers in more applications. Besides, the wireless adapter integrated into Zotac ZBOX HD-ID11 turned out not as sensitive as we hoped it would be. Maybe it was because Zotac engineers decided not to use any external antennas in their system. But these are minor issues compared with the fact that the internal cooling organization is far from efficient. As a result, the thermal conditions are extremely dangerous for the hard drive and can lead to its untimely failure. This is the biggest problem with Zotac ZBOX HD-ID11 system at this time.