Pint-sized HD Cruncher - ASRock Nettop ION 330-BD


Tiny Workhorse

Tiny Workhorse

Intel's Atom may be an efficient and capable performer when it comes to basic computing tasks like word processing and web browsing, but it stutters when it comes to Blu-ray and HD video playback - mostly due to Intel pairing it with a rather old integrated GPU based chipset.

It obviously needed help, and NVIDIA came to the Atom's rescue with the Ion. The Ion, in summary, is a platform that pairs Intel's Atom processors with NVIDIA's very own GeForce 9400 mGPU chipset (mGPU stands for "motherboard GPU" as coined by NVIDIA). With the GeForce 9400 mGPU and its integrated graphics engine on board, this greatly enhanced the Atom based platform's HD video crunching abilities, enabling users to play 1080p HD videos with a caramel-like smoothness.

Unfortunately, Intel did not take too kindly to this initiative and were not supportive of the platform combination and maintained that Atom processors should only be used with their very own 945GSE and 945GC chipsets. Furthermore, Intel claimed that the Ion was an attack by NVIDIA on their chipsets and went on to state that the higher power consumption and costs were against the Atom's philosophy of providing a low cost computing solution.

With Intel expressing obvious disdain for the Ion, it was no surprise then that initial take up on the chipset was slow. No matter though, soon Ion based products starting trickling in. The Acer AspireRevo was the first Ion product we reviewed and while the NVIDIA GPU did bring much needed improvement in HD decoding, its performance was hampered by the meekly powered single core Atom 230 processor.

Not one to be left behind, ASRock too has jumped in on the Ion bandwagon and what we have here today is their Nettop Ion 330-BD. The Ion 330-BD is equipped with the more powerful dual-core Atom 330 processor and as the "BD" tag in its name suggests, it comes equipped with a Blu-ray drive. Before we take a closer look at this tiny nettop, as usual we tabulate its detailed specifications below.