ASUS AT3IONT-I Deluxe Atom 330/nVidia ION Motherboard Review

Operation & Features

Atom 330 Processor:
The Intel Atom 330 processor is not in the newest of the Atom line of processors. Why does Asus (and other companies) choose to use the Atom 330 over newer Atom processors? The Atom 330 uses external memory controllers and is capable of running either DDR2 or DDR3 memory, the Atom D510 has an onboard controller that runs DDR2 memory. The Atom 330 is a dual-core 1.6gHz 45nm CPU with hyperthreading. It has a FSB of 533mHz and as I’ve mentioned, a max TDP of 8 watts.

You may wonder how powerful the Atom 330 is compared to mainstream desktop CPUs. I ran across a benchmark a while back, 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?) I assume that there are hundreds of thousands of rigs using the A64 3200 processor still being used, I have two of them in builds still used as daily drivers and know at least a dozen people currently using HP rigs sporting that CPU.

You may scoff at a new desktop processor in 2010 with the processing power of 2005…but compared to the Atom 330’s eight watts, the Athlon 64 used 89 watts!

So keep in mind that the Atom 330 does not compare with the processing power of any of the newer processors, even the Core i3. This rig is intended mainly for multimedia enjoyment…reading email, listening to music, watching YouTube videos, sharing photographs, surfing the internet…the stuff that millions of non-enthusiast computer owners limit their computer use to…though this one makes watching movies via either DVD or NetFlix very simple with the onboard HDMI port.

I think back on everything I did when my primary rig was an A64 3200. I did basically everything I do now, just slower. And at the time it was very fast compared to earlier processors.

I suppose what I am getting at is that a rig built around the AT3IONT-I Deluxe would easily serve as a primary rig for most people that computing power isn’t a priority.

ASUS AT3IONT-I Deluxe Atom 330/nVidia ION Motherboard

General Operation:
I used a 32” HDTV for a monitor, connected via HDMI cable. As I mentioned earlier, I do not have BluRay capabilities at this time, so I wasn’t able to check out the HD content of the integrated graphics. Other than that, the system worked excellent for DVD replay via Windows Media Center.

For those with a Blu-ray or HD DVD drive, the AT3IONT-I Deluxe’s integrated graphics support full HD 1080p resolution. It is HDCP compliant, allowing full playback of HD DVD and Blu-ray content.

The AT3IONT-I Deluxe has more audio capabilities than any rig I have seen. I’ve already discussed the HD Audio setup and the RCA connectors. The nVidia ION chipset also allows for HD Audio via HDMI cable without any S/PDIF cables. Also there is optical S/PDIF for devices using a Sony/Phillips optical connection.

I really like the idea of onboard WiFi with an HTPC rig. There are already too many wires both with the TV and a computer, anything that eliminates wires is great by me. The AT3IONT-I Deluxe’s WLAN 802.11n/g/b worked well, I connected immediately and have yet to lose connection.

Another big deal is the onboard Bluetooth connection. Bluetooth keyboards and mice are still a little expensive but prices are dropping. With Bluetooth devices, you are not only totally wireless with the AT3IONT-I Deluxe, you can use them from across the room without having a dongle stretched somewhere between you and the rig to be able to get more than five or six feet away.

If you’ll notice in the photo, I have a TV tuner card installed. This happens to be the Asus My Cinema EHD3-100 Dual Hybrid TV Card. In my particular application it works exceptionally well. I have cable but don’t have a box. So I don’t have the little niceties like the station identification along with the channel number, the name of the show playing at the time, an interactive guide, etc. The TV tuner card works with Windows Media Center, downloads all of your cable service provider’s information, and not only gives you the benefit of a cable box, it also gives you the benefits of a TiVo, you can record up to two shows at a time, and you can use the guide for interactive recording scheduling. Unlike a DVR, you can have however much hard drive you want for saving recorded content. My mITX case only holds one hard drive…but external drives or NAS gives you a pretty much infinite amount of storage.

I’m sure that the Asus EHD3-100 works well alongside a cable box, in my case it gives me all of the benefits of having one without paying rent. It definitely makes the AT3IONT-I a complete media center.

ASUS AT3IONT-I Deluxe Atom 330/nVidia ION Motherboard

The Remote:
The AT3IONT-I Deluxe comes with a remote and USB dongle. I didn’t measure the cable length on the dongle but it looks like the standard 6’.

The remote basically is for DVD play and navigation in Windows Media Center. It may work with other DVD play software but I use WMC and don’t keep any other DVD play software around. There is also an I/O button that puts the rig in sleep mode, a mute button that shuts the sound off, and volume+/volume-.

Windows Media Center autolaunches when a DVD is inserted into the optical drive and the remote takes over from there. It does not have the capability of launching or shutting down Media Center. Not a big deal, but it would make the remote a little more versatile.

ASUS AT3IONT-I Deluxe Atom 330/nVidia ION Motherboard

Asus Home Theater Gate:
Home Theater Gate is an Asus utility that works with Windows Media Player, even for DVD play, WMP usually doesn’t play DVDs. The “gate” is practical for people that will generally use this computer for multimedia purposes.

Launch the utility and the screen pops up. Set up the paths to your videos, music, and photos. You’ll also have to set up the location of your favorite internet radio sites.

ASUS AT3IONT-I Deluxe Atom 330/nVidia ION Motherboard

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