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Whenever we look at Small Form Factor (SFF) systems or even laptops, we often come away thinking much could be improved or added. This was not the case with the Asrock Ion 330HT-BD. Perhaps the biggest disappointment remains the Atom processor, as even this newer dual-core version is still lacking in the power department.
In all fairness, it wasn't until we benchmarked the Atom 330 that we realized just how slow it is compared to other modern desktop CPUs. We spent days playing with the Ion system, installing software and configuring it for daily use and overall it felt quite snappy in Windows 7.
The single-core Atom 230 we had tested before is a real slug when paired with Microsoft's latest OS, to the point where it's too frustrating to use. While it's possible to use the Atom 230 on Windows XP without much trouble, you still don't want to throw any serious tasks at it. The Atom 330 surprised us, running smoothly on Windows 7, and being completely honest I might not have a problem using it as my work PC on a daily basis.
We can think of a number of reasons why the Asrock Ion 330HT-BD is the ultimate HTPC. Its ability to play 1080p content smoothly is a basic requirement that goes along the built-in Blu-ray player. Add to that its compact size, stylish design, ultra quiet operating volume, low power consumption, remote control and HDMI support. That's not to forget the Ion 330HT-BD doesn't lose on the PC connectivity front with eSATA, WiFi-n, 6x USB ports and Optical/Digital audio out.
We were also pleased to see what was hidden on the BIOS, which provides a great deal of tweakable options. The overclocking abilities of the Ion 330HT-BD were impressive, as we had no problem squeezing an extra 400MHz out of the dual-core Atom processor.
In terms of features and performance we feel the Asrock Ion 330HT-BD is about as good as a nettop is going to get right now. At $580, Asrock seems to be charging a fair price for the Ion 330HT-BD.
Outstanding product: Asrock Ion 330HT-BD Nettop
If you wanted to build a similar system yourself, an Atom 330/Ion motherboard is going to cost at least $175 alone, a decent Mini-ITX case with power supply to house it will cost anywhere from $50 to $100. The 2GB of DDR2 memory will set you back another $50, the Seagate hard drive is $65 and the Sony Blu-Ray player is worth roughly $150. All up this gets us to $500 without the remote and wireless LAN card.
It is worth noting that the price doesn't include an operating system, so you must budget for this. Windows 7 seems to be the way to go with the Asrock Ion 330HT-BD.
Overall we are left impressed with the Asrock Ion 330HT-BD. With base models starting at $350, there should be a version for everyone. While we have focused on using the Ion 330HT-BD as a HTPC solution, this tiny system could be used for various tasks and is suitable for general usage as well.