The AT3IONT-I is [as we have already said] a Mini-ITX form factor motherboard. As such it has a severely limited amount of space to place components and to tune the traces. However as this is such a small device tuning the trace and making sure the BIOS is setup properly is everything. Even looking at the top down view you can see examples of quite a bit of trace tuning already. You can also see one thing that is glaringly absent. This is the 24-pin power connector; as Asus has given you an external power supply there is no need for the traditional 24-pin ATX connector on the board. However, as this board design is probably used in more than one product the place for it is still there. The AT3IONT-I has two slots for DDR3 memory. It can handle up to 1066MHz and modules of up to 2GB [4GB max memory support]. Unlike some ITX boards we have seen that can only take SO-DIMMs the AT3IONT-I can handle the regular 240 Pin DDR3 modules.
Of course the thing that draws the most attention is the rather large heatsink in the middle of the board. This covers both the Atom 330 CPU and the ION MCP. Once we removed it we saw something a bit funny. The Atom 330 is a dual core CPU with Hyper-Threading, but it is not a dual core die. Instead it is two Atom CPUs on the same packaging. However, despite this fact it is still smaller than the MCP7A-ION-B3. You can also see more examples of the type of tuning required to get this running properly [and stable].
Looking at the bottom of the board now we find the single PCIe slot. This is actually fully x16 so you have the option to drop in a very high end GPU if you want to; although, to be honest, I am not sure why you would try to do that. Also in this area are the four SATA-II ports. This is an odd configuration as there are only three power connectors on the single power cable included. You can also see the n-spec Wi-Fi adapter in the mini-PCIe port.
Here we can see the antenna wire that leads to the external antenna port. Right under that is the DC power port. This is one of the things that make the AT3IONT-I so versatile and such an intriguing product. You can also see a row of three fan headers with is interesting as the hard sell on the box would seem to indicate you do not need any fans.
Looking at the ports on the back you get an immediate impression the AT3IONT-I Deluxe is ready for use in a multimedia setup. We see six USB 2.0 ports, an HDMI and VGA port, 1/8-inch stereo ports for audio right next to a pair of RCA connectors for left and right stereo. The AT3IONT-I also has the more familiar Toslink optical out for audio alongside a built in Bluetooth transceiver. Like I said, it is loaded not for bear but for the home theater.
As you would expect from Asus the AT3IONT-I Deluxe does have more than its share of features. These range from the mundane like Stack Cool 3 which covers the heatsink and PCB design to ensure efficient heat transfer all the way up to built-in Bluetooth. Let’s take a quick look at some of the more interesting.
Home Theater Gate
This is an included piece of software that has been designed with easy visual usage. The software allows you to quickly identify icons even from a long distance. However, it is also as limited as most digital media players. It has no ability to view live TV from a TV Tuner and also has a few issues with media that is not stored locally on the system. Still it is not a bad piece of software if you are building this to operate as a media player instead of a full HTPC.
Wireless and Power Onboard
This is actually a combination of multiple features. The first is pretty simple Asus has dropped a Wireless N adapter into a mini PCIe slot and have also thrown in a Bluetooth module for good measure. The last one is [to me anyway] one of the coolest features they have thrown in. Asus has included a power brick style power supply with the AT3IONT-I Deluxe. The advantage of having this is that you are not limited to a traditional PC case. You can get something much smaller; something that resembles a piece of home audio equipment. You also get to save between $50-$100, depending on your tastes in Power Supplies.
The HD Audio on the AT3IONT-I is provided by a Realtek ACL887 audio codec that can provide 6 channels of audio [formerly known as 5.1 surround] The board also has a pair of direct stereo outputs in the form of gold plated RCA outputs. Of course you can also experience full digital audio in the form of Toslink and HDMI out [again only 6 channel].
nVidia ION Graphics
Although PhysX and CUDA are listed - the real highlight here is the full 1080p support. This is a big improvement over the 720p from some of the other Atom based products we have tinkered with [including Pine Trail]. You do have the odd issue with the HDMI hand off to certain TVs though. This manifests by the display seeming to extend beyond the confines of the display despite being set to 1920x1080. We have witnessed this on more than a few displays and is something to be aware of with any nVidia product.
Asus has packed in even more into the AT3IONT-I Deluxe, like the IR dongle, remote, crash free BIOS, Express Gate OS but for the money the four we listed above are your best bet.
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