Published in Motherboards
Zotac's ION board gets fingered
Poked and prodded, but not tested, yet...
Thanks to bit-tech's preview of Zotac's mini-ITX ION board, we finally understand why it's so expensive. It's not because if has a 24k gold heatsink or anything similarly crazy, but it's rather because it ships with an external 90W AC/DC power converter and has an onboard DC/DC converter.
This adds a fair bit of cost, but it also enabled this mini-ITX board to fit in very small cases. Considering that the board doesn't have any PCI or PCI Express expansion slots, there's no need of getting a case with an expansion slot in it, or space for a PSU for that matter. There are only a handful of cases like this on the market, but we're all for Zotac's design approach in this case. However, there's a mini card slot on the board, although this is populated by default by a WiFi card from AzureWave that supports 802.11b/g/n, although Zotac only provides a single antennae, so there's no support for MIMO which is likely to slow down the connection speeds in n mode. At least Zotac has left a space for a second antennae connector around the back of the board, as long as you can get hold of the right cable that connects to the internal card.
The heatsink that covers the chipset and CPU is nothing short of huge, but it's still low profile enough to allow the board to fit in small cases. Zotac also provides a 60mm low profile fan (10mm high) to aid in cooling the CPU and chipset. Around the back we're looking at six USB 2.0 ports, a PS/2 port for a keyboard, D-sub, DVI and HDMI ports for display connectivity, eSATA, Gigabit Ethernet, three analog audio jacks for 5.1-channel audio and an optical and coaxial S/PDIF out. The board also has three SATA ports, two DIMM slots for DDR2 memory up to 800MHz, headers for four additional USB 2.0 ports and oddly enough, a header for a serial port.
The board has space for an ATX connector, so we might see other, cheaper iterations of this board in the future, although £159 (€179/$239) plus VAT (currently 15 percent in the UK) actually seems quite reasonable considering that this is for the model with the dual core Atom 330 processor. You could of course get one of Zotac's Nvidia 9400 based socket 775 boards, but then you have to factor in the cost of a CPU and power supply as well.
You can find plenty of pictures and more details here