In this review, we’ve looked at the ASRock A330ION from head to toe, reviewing the hardware trifecta of NVIDIA’s ION graphics chipset, Intel’s dual core Atom 330 processor, and ASRock’s integration of DDR3. Providing outputs for high definition audio, DVI, VGA, HDMI, gigabit ethernet, eSATA, and so forth, the ASRock A330ION proves it is willing to be friends with whatever components you have lying on your desk, which is to say it’s capable of being as well-connected as a Washington DC socialite. While the I/O for the ASRock A330ION isn’t exactly as media oriented as the Zotac IONITX-A-U we’ve been comparing it against, the A330ION sports four internal SATA ports as well as the 2 eSATA ports on the back panel, shifting the ASRock A330ION Mini-ITX motherboard into a very fine position for network storage computers without sacrificing much in the way of media interfaces.
Aside from hardware, we’ve seen test after test that proves the DDR3 integration helps boost the performance of the A330ION over the competition. Granted, not all tests agreed, and not all tests had large margins, there remains plenty of evidence to suggest the A330ION is one of the fastest low-power Atom Mini-ITX motherboards on the market that can still wrestle with Blu-Ray and come out on top. Is this kid going to get picked last for the neighborhood’s pickup football game? Heck no — unless that football game is rendered in complex three-dimensional graphics with anti-aliasing and dynamic shadows. But otherwise, heck no.
Combine the hardware resources and prowess with a BIOS that makes overclocking as easy as flipping flap jacks, and the A330ION becomes a great example of what a full-package low-power motherboard should look like. Running Windows 7 was smooth, playing video (including full 1080p) was smooth, and tweaking the CPU frequency from the bundled OC Tuner application was super-smooth. While the A330ION isn’t yet available in the US and pricing information seems pretty vague, I expect this motherboard to be released in the coming weeks with a very competitive price tag ranging from $130 to $150.
As a parting note, some might wonder why the ASRock A330ION mini-ITX motherboard didn’t use the newest Intel Atom ‘Pine Trail’ processor, the Intel D510, which has less power consumption and higher performance. The answer, if I had to wager a guess, is that the memory controller for the Atom D510 is built onto the chip and is restricted to DDR2. With the current Atom 330, this memory controller is external to the CPU and allowed ASRock to integrate the CPU with DDR3. Let’s hope the next Atom processor has a little more memory flexibility!
Legit Bottom Line: ASRock’s new A330ION motherboard integrates DDR3 RAM in an amazingly featured low-power Mini-ITX motherboard. With support for up to 6 SATA drives at full speed and excellent high definition playback in audio and full 1080p video, the A330ION would make a great storage server, HTPC, or hybrid combination!