Test System and Build CommentsProcessor
: Intel Atom 330Mainboard
Asus AT3IONT-I Deluxe [Supplied by Asus
: 4GB Corsair CMT4GX3M2A2000C8 [Supplied by Corsair
: Corsair Force F120 120GB SSD [Supplied by Corsair
: nVidia ION [Supplied by nVidia
] / AMD Radeon 5450 [Supplied by AMD
: Built-in Passive Cooling Monitor
Sceptre X270W-1080P 27-Inch LCD [Supplied by Sceptre
: Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64Drivers
: Forceware, Catalyst 10.7Comments;
Putting the AT3IONT-I Deluxe together was very simple. All we had to do was add memory, our SSD, and then a DVD-ROM. After that we were off and getting Windows 7 installed. The driver installation was also amazingly simple thanks to the install all software on the drivers DVD-ROM. We ran into no problems with the wireless card or any other subsystem of the board. It really was one of the simpler builds we have done.
Performance - Subsystems
Motherboard performance is not simply a measure of how fast you can overclock or indeed how many FPS it will get you in your favorite game. We feel that it is a combination of the subsystems combined with how well it handles your CPU, RAM and add-in boards. As such we cover performance of these items in our testing.
Memory performance is very important in a motherboard. This is even truer now that most CPUs have an internal memory controller. These are usually less affected by the actual speed of the memory as they are any issues in latency, skew and tracing on the board. For the most part Asus has this area firmly in hand. They typically can outperform the competition in terms of stock and overclocked memory performance. For our testing we use Sisoft Sandra and Everest Memory test.
With the Asus AT3IONT-I’s support for DDR3 we were not surprised to see the much better numbers in terms of memory performance. True it is not going to win you any awards but the difference is enough to make the ION a better platform for HD media.
Everest shows us pretty much the same thing as SiSoft Sandra. Of course we see more information so the picture is more complete.
The ability of a motherboard to pull data from your disk drive is another important aspect of system performance. With the introduction of the SSD the performance gulf between different boards with the same chipset dropped. Now when we do see a difference it is measured in 1-2 MB/s. The same thing is now showing up in SATA 3.0 and USB 3.0 testing. The reason we keep this test in place is to identify boards that have a serious issue with HDD performance. Usually these are correctable with a simple BIOS adjustment.
The HDD controller on the ION MCP was not as good as the memory controller. In fact it is significantly slower than the Intel HDD controller. This could cause some issues in terms of video buffering [for DVR performance] as well as transcoding.
It seems the issue is the linear read performance that is dragging the ION’s HDD controller down. This has an impact on the aggregate performance number shown in SANDRA. It would seem that we may still see decent transcoding times, but there is no guarantee.
Although many may argue, the audio sub-system on a motherboard is an important part of performance and overall purchaser satisfaction. If the audio system is garbage you are not going to get decent sound for gaming, video or anything. Additionally a poor audio CODEC [COmpression/DECompression] can cause performance issues as the CPU, Memory and other system components try to deal with the signals and data being sent from that part. Drivers also play an important role here.
The RealTek ACL887 is a pretty good audio CODEC. It has support for up to six channels of audio at more than acceptable levels. Of course one of the issues with using something like the ACL887 is that it uses the CPU for many of the higher audio functions. This means that if you turn on any of the post-processing you are going to have an impact on performance. When you are dealing with an Atom CPU [even with hyper-threading and dual cores] this can be a bad thing. Fortunately you should not need any post-processing to get decent sound reproduction.
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