Zotac IONITX-P-E: First CULV-embedded Motherboard

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FAN CONTROL

As we mentioned before in the BIOS section, fan control can be handled in two ways, a series of single settings or fully customized. The single speed settings allows the stock fan to run between 1660 RPM and 3290 RPM, with noise levels of 12 dBA, 16 dBA, 23 dBA, or 25~25 dBA at one meter's distance depending on the setting. The minimum speed can be brought down to about 500 RPM if you use a customized duty cycle, but the noise advantage is minimal.

Stock Fan Measurements
BIOS Setting
Fan Speed
SPL@1m
min. custom (duty cycle set to 0)
490 RPM
11~12 dBA
Quiet
1660 RPM
12 dBA
50%
2280 RPM
16 dBA
Medium
2800 RPM
23 dBA
75%, Full on
3290 RPM
25~26 dBA
Ambient noise level: 11 dBA


The Zotac IONITX-P-E stock fan measured 16 dBA@1m with the speed on the Quiet setting in the BIOS. It is quiet and smooth at this setting.

The fan sounded soft overall, similar to what we hear in many laptops. There was some bearing chatter close up at lower speeds and at higher speeds there was a touch of whine.

COOLING

The default dynamic SmartFan settings had the fan spinning at 1200 RPM at CPU temperatures 35°C and below. The fan increased in speed above this point gradually to 2100 RPM at which point the CPU stabilized at 45°C. However, at this point we observed an annoying seesaw fan behavior as the slight temperature fluctuations caused the fan to continuously spin up and spin down.

System Measurements
Test State
CPU Temp.
GPU Temp.
VRM Temp.
CPU Load
48°C
40°C
36°C
CPU + GPU Load
56°C
47°C
41°C
Ambient temperature: 21°C.
Ambient noise level: 11 dBA.
Stock fan noise level: 12 dBA@1m.

 

The static Quiet setting in the BIOS seemed far preferable as it ran the stock fan at about 1660 RPM at all times. This setting kept the board reasonably cool with the CPU and GPU temperature stabilizing at about 56°C and 47°C respectively on full load while hardly generating any noise from one meter's distance. The MOSFETs next to the heatsink which we believe are for voltage regulation measured only 41°C using an infrared thermometer.

MP3 SOUND RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. Be aware that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn't hear it from one meter, chances are we couldn't record it either!

The recording starts with 5~10 second segments of room ambiance, then the fan at various levels. For the most realistic results, set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don't change the volume setting again.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Given our experience with the Zotac ZBOX HD-ND22, the capabilities of the IONITX-P-E were never in question. We were surprised however at how well it fared against the the IONITX-A in energy efficiency when powered by a picoPSU especially in view of the superior performance of the CULV chip. On load the faster CPU uses a bit more power and generates additional heat, but the fan attached to the heatsink cools well while producing only a negligible amount of noise thanks to the functional onboard fan control.

For a compact general use machine, small server or sleek HTPC, an Atom box is a good choice if low cost is absolutely vital. The Zotac IONITX-P-E represents a substantial jump in performance for US$30~$50 more than the various the Atom/ION combinations on the market, yet does not suffer any energy efficiency penalty, especially at the all-important idle setting where most PCs run much of their operational life. For an integrated low power solution, nothing can touch the Intel CULV and nVidia ION combo of the Zotac IONITX-P-E right now.

Zotac IONITX-P-E
PROS

* Much faster than Atom
* ION graphics
* Feature-set ( PCI-E 16x, 802.11n, eSATA)
* Cool and quiet with stock fan at low speed
* Very energy efficient
CONS

* A bit on the expensive side
* WiFi performance could be better

Our thanks to Zotac for the IONITX-P-E sample.

Recommended by SPCR
Zotac IONITX-P-E is Recommended by SPCR.

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Articles of Related Interest
Gigabyte H55N-USB3: De Facto LGA1156 Mini-ITX Board?
Silent Home Server Build Guide
Zotac ZBOX HD-ND22: A CULV Nettop at last!
Zotac H55-ITX-C-E: Stacked LGA1156 Mini-ITX Motherboard
AMD's 890GX Chipset
Asus UL30A & Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 13 CULV Notebooks

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