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Pegatron IPX7A-ION/330 Motherboard

A good mini-ITX solution from a new market player.

February 16, 2010



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The motherboard has two fan connectors. One of those has 4 pins and lets the system control fan speed -- either by means of the corresponding BIOS option or by means of SpeedFan, etc., in Windows. The automatic control range is 7-12 V.

Thus, we can state that IPX7A-ION/330 has a better cooling system than that of ASUS AT3N7A-I. The noisy fan of the latter bothered everyone within the 10-meter radius, when we tested it. But NVIDIA's reference solution is better anyway, so this reinvention of the wheel can only be justified by saving precious metals in times of economic depression.



The bundle is typically humble: a rear-panel I/O bracket, SATA cables, a software CD and a thin user's guide. The BIOS is also pretty minimalistic, one useful feature lets you select a bootable drive, the other lets you toggle Hyper-Threading.

The motherboard powers from a standard 24-pin EATX cable and requires no additional ATX12V cable. mini-ITX motherboards intended for compact machines often support laptop external power adapters (e.g. with a single round connector, usually 12V). These include, for example, Zotac ION-ITX-A and ION-ITX-C.

Features



The NVIDIA ION chipset provides the motherboard with the following features:

  • Support for 2 x SO-DIMM DDR2-800 (up to 4GB);
  • GeForce 9400 integrated graphics (D-Sub, DVI, HDMI);
  • 1 x PCIe x16;
  • 6 x USB2.0 (4 on the rear panel, 2 via onboard headers);
  • 4 x SATAII 3Gbps;
  • PS/2 keyboard and mouse.

The motherboard also has the following additional features:

  • Integrated audio based on the 5.1-channel Realtek ALC662 HDA codec, frontal inputs/outputs and an optical digital S/PDIF-Out (Toslink) on the rear panel;
  • Gigabit LAN based on Realtek 8112L.

Three video outputs (any two of which can work independently) provide the maximum compatibility with all kinds of monitors, as well as LCD and plasma TVs.

It isn't really worth it to install a discrete graphics card into the PCIe x16 slot. The weak CPU will be a bottleneck in games, so any decent graphics card will be idling. However, as we have mentioned, you still can use this slot to install a TV/FM tuner, a good soundcard, a Wi-Fi adapter or any other PCIe device which are aplenty.

Performance

Testbed:

  • CPU: Intel Atom 330 (2 x 1.6GHz, 533MHz FSB);
  • RAM: 2 x 1GB Hynix SO-DIMM DDR2-800 (5-5-5-15-2);
  • Graphics: integrated GeForce 9400, 256MB shared VRAM;
  • HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10, SATA, 7200rpm;
  • OS: Windows XP SP2.

The summary table, aside from the results of IPX7A-ION/330, shows performance of Zotac IONITX and ASUS AT3N7A-I, so you can compare different solutions on the same chipset and CPU.


Test ASUS AT3N7A-I Zotac ION ITX IPX7A-ION/330
Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec 14:07 13:59 15:00
MPEG4 encoding (XviD), min:sec 12:38 12:40 13:19
FarCry (Low@640x480), fps 65 63 60
FarCry (Medium@800x600), fps 58 57 56
Doom 3 (Low@640x480), fps 32 29 29
Doom 3 (High@1024x768), fps 29 27 27

The results are quite similar, the worse values being mostly related to slightly higher memory timings.

Video playback tests, including 1080p and Blu-ray remuxes, do not show anything new: like all other NVIDIA ION-based solutions, IPX7A-ION/330 does a good job playing any, even the heaviest and worst encoded, content. The best results can be obtained in Windows Vista and Windows 7, thanks to the improved EVR renderer.

The performance conclusions are the same: the Ionized Atom is a great foundation for an HTPC or a nettop, or even a very entry-level gaming rig.

Conclusions

This motherboard is a typical product from the ION + Atom family. It can be recommended as an addition to a compact mini-ITX enclosure with a 4-pin fan, a couple of SO-DIMM DDR2 modules, and a PCIe card useful for an HTPC. Pegatron couldn't improve NVIDIA's already successful solution, but the motherboard has no significant drawbacks as well.


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