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

Conclusions
I have reviewed one other Atom 330/nVidia ION motherboard/CPU setup. I really liked it. The Asus AT3IONT-I Deluxe is definitely a step ahead of that one as far as features go, but you do pay for the extra niceties.

Size does matter with this rig, the mITX form factor allows for use of some really small footprint cases. Use of a brick power adapter rather than a power supply adds even more flexibility, there are some really small cases out there for mITX boards that don’t require a 20 or 24 pin power connector. I know that many enthusiasts aren’t really fans of the brick, and I normally fall into that group, but I think that here it is a good idea.

The AT3IONT-I Deluxe has passive cooling to ensure silence. This should be taken into account when choosing a case to place it in…my mITX case is designed for an internal power supply and has no other cooling provisions. I did remove the PSU to make as much room inside as I could. Though the CPU did hover around the 65C mark for most of the time, performance was never affected, and I decided not to place a fan inside of the case. Though I do like my mITX case, it would not be my choice for this board.

Onboard WiFi is definitely a plus for an HTPC rig, and I really like that fact that this board has it. After a week of running the WLAN 802.11n/g/b has yet to lose signal a single time. Onboard Bluetooth allows for use of wireless input devices that use no USB whatsoever, and allow for being more than five or six feet away from the rig or dongle.

There are more audio connection possibilities than I have seen on any other motherboard. HD Audio via HDMI allows for a clean, simple connection to your HDTV, and there are a pair of RCA connectors if your TV doesn’t have HDMI…which also can be connected to a stereo amplifier for higher quality stereo sound. There is optical S/PDIF for devices using a Sony/Phillips optical connection. And the HD Audio connectors can be configured several ways including for 6.1 and 8.1. The audio also sports the latest DTS Surround Sensation UltraPC that gives surround sound properties to a stereo system.

The integrated graphics not only support HDMI, but are HDCP compliant, allowing for full HD 1080p playback of HD DVD and Blu-ray content. Blu-ray readers are still dropping in price, you can pick up one now for $60-$80. I will eventually have one, I promise.

The AT3IONT-I Deluxe’s remote is mostly for movie watching via Windows Media Center, but it does have a few other controls such as for DTS and internet radio. It doesn’t launch or shut down WMC, which would be nice, but it does serve the purpose.

The Atom 330 has been around a while and its days are numbered. The latest Atom processors use even less wattage and have more features, along with having DDR3 memory capability. But, the Atom 330 works well in this application and similar setups using the 2010 Atoms haven’t arrived yet.

The Asus AT3IONT-I Deluxe sells for $190 at my favorite online retailer. The non-Deluxe version is $150, so you are paying $40 for onboard WiFi, onboard Bluetooth, and a remote plus dongle. Having the WiFi and Bluetooth onboard is easily worth 40 bucks to me. Throw in a Blu-ray drive and a TV tuner card, hook up a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard, connect your HDTV, and you have one helluva entertainment center. ThinkComputers gives the Asus AT3IONT-I Deluxe motherboard a 10 out of 10 score.

Pros:
– Bundled CPU and brick power adapter makes for an extremely cheap build
– Onboard WiFi and Bluetooth keep external wires down to a minimum
– Use of power adapter allows for a larger number of smaller cases
– Large number of audio connections is nice for home theater

Cons:
– Remote would be nicer if it launched Windows Media Center

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