ASRock A330ION nVidia MCP7A-ION Mini-ITX Motherboard Review

Operation / Initial Testing
I have a basic format in which I do testing of a motherboard, but this isn’t a typical system, so I will be changing things up. Unfortunately, I don’t have another Atom or other Mini-ITX system to compare the A330ION to. I really have no idea what kind of power to expect, this rig really has very little to do with modern enthusiasts’ rigs, even the Intel Core i3.

First, the CPU cooler…I could hear it through the very open case, but it wasn’t loud or annoying. I had it set to full speed in the BIOS.

My first question about the Atom is how powerful it is, not only compared to today’s system but also to systems of the past. Probably moreso to systems of the past, which might give me more of an idea of what it will do as far as performance. Remember, this is a dual core, 8 watt processor, and I don’t expect it to be even remotely close to the current processors of today.

I ran across a benchmark used by some, the Fritz Chess Benchmark. This benchmark tests CPU performance by running computer chess on the CPU. The interesting thing about this benchmark is that it compares the CPU’s performance against the Intel 1.0 gHz P3. I can relate as I had one, it was blown away by my first build, an AMD Athlon 2500+. Though Fritz Chess compares to a fairly archaic system, it is up to date as it uses all CPU cores, including virtual cores from hyperthreading. Another cool thing is that the site has a selection of examples of scores from a wide variety of processors.

I found it rather interesting looking at how modern processors measure up to the P3….The Core i7 920 LGA 1366 scores 22.25 times the power of the 1gig P3 when at stock clock, crank it up to 4 gigs and it jumps up to 32 times. The Core 2 Q6600 quad core is 15 times the P3.

Anyway, at stock clock, the Atom 330 scored 2.30. That puts it in the realm of the AMD Athlon 64 3200, a single core Socket 939 processor. The cutting edge technology of five years ago. (Man…is that all it has been?) Surprisingly, I had two of these, and I actually still have one in service, my dad uses it every day, and it does everything he needs. Keep in mind that I am just talking about outright performance…the Atom’s technology is light years ahead of the Athlon 64, or any other processor available at the time. Remember, we are talking about a motherboard that nearly fits in the palm of your hand.

Now I know a little more what to expect from the A330ION, and what to look at.

Testing – Photoshop
Next, I used Photoshop Bench by DriverHeaven.net, a script that runs with Photoshop CS2 or CS3. Photoshop Bench takes a .jpg and runs a series of 15 filters on it. Though there are 15 steps, I only showed the results of some of the longer ones, many of them only take a few seconds, not long enough to show real results.

To give some kind of idea of where the Atom is at, I compared the results with those from the mildest processor I had immediately available, the Phenom X4 9950. This is what I consider a “second generation” Phenom, much better than the first run, but definitely not comparable to the Phenom II.

No, comparing the Atom 330 to a Phenom whatever isn’t a fair comparison, but we need to see where the Atom stands. Using an HTPC to edit photos is something that one might do, so be aware that if you use a lot of filters it will take at least twice as long as with this decent but 1.5 year old Phenom. Fortunately, most of the filters you would normally use take only a few seconds. Everything else I did in Photoshop took no longer than normal.