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Atom and Ion team up on Mini-ITX mobo

May 13, 2009 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 3 views

Zotac released a Mini-ITX motherboard combining Intel Atom processors with Nvidia's Ion northbridge/southbridge combo. The “Ionitx” (left) includes Atom 230 or 330 CPUs, supports HD video playback, sports an HDMI connector and dual S/PDIF audio outputs, and targets construction of “eco friendly” media servers, Zotac says.

(Click here for a larger view of Zotac's Ionitx)

Intel's single-core Atom 230 and dual-core Atom 330, both clocked at 1.6GHz and intended for the low-cost, small-footprint PCs the chipmaker refers to as “nettops,” are typically combined with the Intel's 82945GC northbridge and 82801GB (ICH7) southbridge, which weren't designed with HD video playback in mind. To get around this, at least one manufacturer — Habey, with its BIS-6550HD — has added a supplemental HD decoder chip to an Atom-based PC.

Nvidia, for its part, announced its Ion platform last December, which uses an Atom CPU, but jettisons the rest of Intel's chipset in favor of a single northbridge/southbridge companion chip (pictured at right) that includes a GeForce 9400 GPU. Nvidia says Ion-based products can have DDR3 memory interfaces with frontside bus speeds of up to 1066MHz. Graphically, they support DirectX 10, offer resolutions up to 2560 x 1600 pixels, provide 1080p HD video playback, and deliver HDMI, VGA, DisplayPort, and dual-link DVI video outputs, the company says.

Acer's Aspire Revo
(Click image for further information)

Last month, Acer deployed the Ion along with an Atom 230 processor in its Aspire Revo, the 7.1 x 7.1 x 1.2 inch PC pictured at right. Zotac's new Ionitx now puts the Ion, along with either the single-core Atom 230 or the dual-core Atom 330, into a 6.7 by 6.7-inch motherboard that can be adopted by either hobbyists or OEMs for creating their own devices.

Of particular interest is that the Ionitx is available either in a version designed to be powered by a traditional ATX power supply, or in a version that comes with an onboard DC-to-DC converter and an external power brick. Since the Ionitx is claimed to run fanlessly, with the aid of the large heatsink pictured at the top of our story, using an external DC power supply makes for silent operation and makes the board potentially adaptable to use in a vehicle.

Zotac's Ionitx offers VGA, DVI, and HDMI video outputs

Resembling a miniature cityscape, the edge of the Ionitx (above) is crammed with ports, including VGA, DVI, and HDMI video outputs, optical and coaxial S/PDIF audio outputs, six USB ports, an RJ45 gigabit Ethernet connector, a PS/2 keyboard port, analog audio I/O, and a WiFi antenna connector. Meantime, ports or pin headers on top of the board provide an additional four USB ports, a serial port, three SATA ports, and one eSATA port, Zotac says.

According to Zotac, the Ionitx's two 240-pin SODIMM slots allow it to accept up to 4GB of DDR2 RAM. Meanwhile, the company adds, an onboard Mini PCIe expansion slot on board is designed to accept an optional Atheros wireless LAN module.

Features and specifications listed by Zotac for its Ionitx motherboard include the following:

  • Processor — Intel Atom 230 or Atom 330 clocked at 1.6GHz, with Nvidia Ion companion chip
  • Memory — Up to 4GB of DDR2 RAM
  • Storage — SATA hard disk drives (RAID 0 or 0+1 configurations are both possible)
  • Networking — Gigabit Ethernet
  • Other I/O:
    • 1 x VGA
    • 1 x HDMI with HDCP support
    • 1 x DVI
    • 2 x S/PDIF (one optical, one digital)
    • Audio — mic in, line in, line out via 3.5mm connectors
    • 10 x USB 2.0 (6 external, 4 internal)
    • 3 x SATA
    • 1 x eSATA
    • 1 x serial (via pin header)
    • DC power input (optional)

  • Expansion — Mini PCI Express expansion slot
  • Power consumption — n/s
  • Dimensions — 6.7 x 6.7 inches

Carsten Berger, marketing director for Zotac, said, “Home theater PCs are becoming popular around the globe. Our new Zotac Ionitx is an instant solution for users seeking to build an HTPC. Since the CPU and GPU are integrated on the board, we were able to design a fanless cooler for the board.”


Zotac did not release pricing or details of operating system support for the Ionitx, but the device appears to be on sale now. More information may be found on the Zotac website, here.

A detailed review by the Hot Hardware website, including additional photographs, benchmarks, and information about power consumption, can be found here.

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