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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  • Powerlurker - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    XFX just released a single-slot 5770 which would probably be a great match for a more gaming oriented mini-ITX system. Reply
  • -BubbaJoe- - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    I'm using a Asus M4A88T-I DELUXE + Athlon x3 445 + a 5770 in a silverstone sg05, thing plays BF2:BC2 at max settings at 1080p

    I think this qualifies as a mini-gamer :D
    Reply
  • chomlee - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    First off, I want to say that I have been watching the Ion chipset and was really thinking of purchasing an itx board last year so I could put together a mini HTPC.

    Here is the issue. I recently purchased a patriot box office for $65.00 at newegg and for an extra $60.00, I put in a 500 gig hard drive. I have a file server that I keep all my pictures, music, and movies on and I stream it over my home network.

    Anyhow, my point is, as far as HTPCs go, my patriot box office does everything I need. I even am able to stream blue ray iso files over the network with flawless playback (using NFS, not SAMBA). The only downside is that it has a very plain gui and unlike a ION mini itx, you cant install XBMC on it. Anyhow, with the availability of boxes like this that are extra small and cheap and other devices such as the boxee box comming out in November, there doesn't seem to be a niche anymore for HTPCs unless you plan on some moderate gaming.
    Reply
  • kmshark - Saturday, August 28, 2010 - link

    I had bad performance with my MKV Bluray files over the network using the PBO... it would play but had intermittent drops/etc. I though it was due to my MKV files being full 1080p + 5.1 or 6.1 FLAC just too much - but I was doing this via SAMBA from my 2K8 server.... so maybe it works better via NFS? For your ISOs, are you playing the hi-def audio? Reply
  • mino - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    While Clarkadle has more rwa power the drivers are STILL a mess.

    Case in point - a STUPIDLY PRIMITIVE DX8 Worms World party simply crashes on Intel IGP while it runs happily on any ATI/NV IGP since 2004 ...

    While Intel seems to has invested heavily in support for benchmarks and current titles (aka review titles) the general 3D support is still a nightmare.
    Reply
  • Cerb - Friday, August 27, 2010 - link

    Yes, it is. Even not counting GMA500, it is. One more reason to look forward to Bobcat; and for normal machines, to go AMD. The added single-threaded i3 performance is small, and made up for quite well, especially if you stick to 785 or newer IGP. Reply
  • CSMR - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    A combination of old tech. Why would anyone bother with this? It's even more expensive than Clarkdale. Now a Clarkdale CULV would be more interesting. Reply
  • sprockkets - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    Seeing as how Zotac's ION Atom boards are priced, this isn't bad at all. Just wish the pci slot was faster.

    In any case, I prefer a system be fanless and compact, which that H55 board isn't. This might come close.

    While having a built in PS is nice, what if it breaks? There goes the whole board. Besides the cases this would go into already have ITX sized power supplies anyhow. The one here is nice since it allows for an optical drive and two 2.5 drives: one SSD and one high capacity notebook drive.

    http://www.logicsupply.com/products/c299
    Reply
  • Wineohe - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    Having experienced the trials and tribulations of Nvidia's GF8300 onboard graphics over HDMI in an ASUS board for AM2, I will not soon sign up again. I can't imagine buying a board with these chipsets. It's indicated in the review that they had no issues. Did you confirm that the HDMI works flawlessly? Did you check to see if it would work with an AV Receiver of switch. Can you adjust for over scan on a 720P Television in the NVidia control panel. Can you effectively adjust resolution at all over HDMI? Does the HD sound work perfectly after every reboot.

    Again not for me.
    Reply
  • sprockkets - Thursday, August 26, 2010 - link

    "Stepping out to a discrete GPU, the ION systems get blasted to smithereens by the i3-540. ION lacks the raw muscle required to handle the GTX 275. 1.875GHz is the maximum stable frequency we achieved on our processor without running out of cooling headroom."

    That's not ION's fault if the pci slot is really x16m, that's the fault of having a low clocked CPU and an older generation one to boot.

    Still, for the average person, this is much better than Atom. Same thing is happening on the laptop front as well.
    Reply

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