ASRock A330ION nVidia MCP7A-ION Mini-ITX Motherboard Review

Except when compared against other Mini-ITX systems, the A330ION isn’t about performance…it is about size. The footprint of this particular rig is 13” x 9” x 5”, about as small as you are going to get in the PC world and still have room for an internal 5.25” optical drive. This board is intended to be used in an HTPC. How much that HTPC will do above playing DVDs and music, reading email and surfing the ‘net, is up to the owner. Add a TV tuner card and using Windows Media Center, you have no need to own a TIVO or other DVR. Use a large internal HDD or add an external one, and you have movie storage that Tivo owners just dream about. And with Windows Media Center, you just burn a DVD directly from the hard drive, no need for decoders or whatever…and it is completely legal!

Add a Blu Ray drive, and you are ready for watching some HD on either your monitor or HDTV. The integrated graphics are fully capable of 1080p. The prices of Blu Ray drives are steadily decreasing, so maybe now is your time to get one.

An HTPC is really about viewing and listening. The A330ION is enough computer to do basic editing of photos, but a real Photoshopper will find the filters run rather slow. Unless you are very patient, you probably won’t be creating movies or encoding a lot of video. Though the graphics are plenty enough for simple games like Zuma, Jewelquest, or whatever, you won’t be doing any serious 3D gaming with this rig.

In other words, if you do any of these things or other activities that require a powerful rig, you will probably not want a rig based on the A330ION to be the only computer in your house. But, if you are like most people, you will be just fine.

I do have one very small complaint. This board is intended for use in an HTPC rig. The four USB ports in the I/O panel will be used up very quickly, after the wireless mouse, wireless keyboard, and WiFi Adapter, there is only one USB port left. My TV tuner card uses a USB port for the remote, so none left. Yeah, there will be one or two USB ports on the case, but I really can’t stand wires hanging off the front of a case. I would really rather have only one eSATA port and another USB port. But that’s just me.

I couldn’t find the A330ION for sale in the US. Word has it that it will run somewhere in the $120-$130 range. You could build a respectable HTPC for $300! Definitely a value. ThinkComputers gives the ASRock A330ION nVidia MCP7A-ION Mini-ITX Motherboard a 10 out of 10 score.

– Tiny footprint
– DDR3 memory gives a performance boost over other Atom rigs
– Overclock capable if you desire
– Bundled processor and integrated graphics make for a cheap build

– Not intended for much more than HTPC duties