ASRock A330ION Mini-ITX Motherboard ReviewThu, Feb 18, 2010 - 12:00 AM
For all of our benchmarks, we compared the ASRock A330ION against one of its similarly featured (though without DDR3) competitors, the Zotac IONITX-A-U. In each case, both motherboards were tested at the stock speeds of 1.6 Ghz and the overclocked speeds of 2.0Ghz, both using a single stick of 2GB RAM, and both using a 1TB hard drive. In particular, we wanted to try to find what benefits incorporating DDR3 might provide the ASRock A330ION in our battery of tests.
PCMark ’05 is an standard benchmark with a focus on testing the system in a variety of ways using portions of real applications, as opposed to arbitrary algorithms or special code. As such, these results are a good indication of the comparable real-life performance between two systems. In this case, while there is not a marked difference in scores between the Zotac and ASRock motherboards at stock speeds, the overclocked speeds proved to exaggerate the differences, providing the ASRock A330ION with about a 6% performance boost over its competitor.
Futuremark’s 3DMark ’06 is a commonly used 3D-graphics benchmarking tool that uses real-time testing to determine a system’s prowess with 3D graphics. The primary focuses of the tests include rendering shadows (both fixed and dynamic), rendering high dynamic range scenery, rendering with the CPU, and calculating AI routines. The result is a balanced look at how a system could handle the aspects that make a game beautiful and challenging. Breaking down the above chart, it’s clear to see from the Overall Score that the ASRock A330ION handily defeats the Zotac board in every test.
The primary differences seem to center on the SM* tests, which calculate and display complex shadows using the graphics capabilities of the motherboard. Since both motherboards use the Intel Atom 330 processor and GeForce 9400 NVIDIA ION chipset, it would seem most likely that the use of DDR3 RAM allowed the ASRock to best its foe in battle. Considering the GeForce 9400 has shared memory, by which I mean the GPU uses standard system memory instead of dedicated memory, it would seem from this test that GPU functionality itself benefits from the faster speeds of the DDR3 RAM.
The above tests were run using Cinebench, with the recorded value representing the composite CPU score of all processor cores (of which the 330 has 2). Cinebench is a free benchmark tool based on the CINEMA 4D software, and it uses both graphics processing and cpu power to determine its score. Surprisingly, the Zotac IONITX-A-U easily outscored the ASRock A330ION to the point that the overclocked A330ION barely managed to beat the Zotac at default speeds. It would seem that DDR3 integration may come at some cost that shows itself in specifically CPU-centered tests.
The SiSoftware Sandra benchmarking suite includes memory bandwidth tests by performing numerical transfers to and from RAM. It would make sense, then, that any benefits the ASRock A330ION receives from the speed of DDR3 would become apparent in this test. And the conclusion? Yes, yes sir, we have a winner! The ASRock A330ION bested the Zotac IONITX-A-U in all fights! DId the ASRock just take back the prized belt-buckle? Is that a rhetorical question?
The Geekbench benchmarking suite includes a number of low-level tests that test the CPU and Memory systems of a computer. While these operations are not specifically real-world in origin, the ability for a computer to process efficiently is important for decoding high definition content. Considering the faster speeds of the DDR3 and the previous benchmarks that have been discussed, it’s not a surprise that the ASRock A330ION beats the Zotac IONITX-A-U in every test. Since the Zotac IONITX-A-U has been shown to handle Blu-Ray playback without issue, we can only conclude that the A330ION will do even better. Which is nice, of course, whatever “better” means.
wPrime is a benchmark that aims to test the raw efficiency of numerical calculations by locating prime numbers in a certain range as quickly as possible. In this case, both motherboards performed about equally, differing by such a slight margin that it’s impossible to eliminate the possibility that background software processes between the two systems caused the discrepancy. Of course, this makes sense, considering the CPU in both boards is exactly the same; it would have been more surprising if there had been a significant difference.
Well, so we know what the hard numbers say, but isn’t there a test that measures awesome? Sadly, no, but read on to find out about YouTube video playback and video game tests!