Asus' AT3IONT-I Deluxe motherboardManufacturer: Asus
UK Price: £145.90 (inc. VAT)
US Price: $189.99 (ex. Tax)
Just before Computex, Asus sent in its AT310NT-I Deluxe motherboard for review. The problem is, we've reviewed Nvidia Ion
: you know how fast an Atom D330 is and how the Nvidia GeForce 9400 IGP performs, so we didn't want to go into that again.
However, the AT3IONT-I Deluxe is unique for several reasons because it's less motherboard, more home theatre kit
. That is, as long as you're buying the Deluxe
version; without Lexusing up your Toyota, you get the board alone.
Why no ATX socket?
Because the board is low power enough that it just requires simple DC-DC power hardware built onto the PCB itself, with a reasonably small power brick to sit on the floor that does the rest of the power converstion from your wall socket, just like a laptop PSU.
This means it drops the ATX socket, along with the fat and ghastly 24-pin cable in exchange for a nice, neat plug on the rear I/O. The downside is that there's limited expansion because extra components such as hard disks and optical drives have to pull power from a single Molex that is plugged into the board itself.
It may have four SATA sockets (more even than the latest generation Ion), but you're only given three SATA power plugs on the cable provided by Asus, and even then the initial spin-up power draw for all disks at once makes us wonder how much power those PCB traces can take?
Note the DDR3 support too! Not only is DDR3 more readily available and often cheaper than DDR2 these days, but eeking every bit of juice from the bandwidth starved dual-core Atom CPU and Ion graphics is certainly beneficial to performance.
Unfortunately, it's only 1,066MHz DDR3 since the GeForce 9400 IGP is getting on now, but Asus does actually let you overclock and even ever so slightly overvolt the CPU, graphics and memory in the BIOS. We actually got 2.1GHz out of the D330! Going down that route you'll want to throw a fan on it then, because we found at stock speeds it already gets toasty.
If we take a look at the board specs, it's certainly more attractive than the standard Ion fair:
- Intel Atom D330 - 1.6GHz dual-core, with HyperThreading
- Two DDR3 DIMMs supporting up to 4GB of 1,066MHz memory
- One 16x PCI-Express slot
- Nvidia Ion chipset with GeForce 9400 IGP and HDMI, D-Sub video outputs
- Four SATA 3Gbps ports
- Realtek ALC887 6-Channel (for six channels plus stereo RCA)
- 802.11n WiFi
- One Gigabit Ethernet
On the back the RCA audio and HDMI 1.3 make it tempting for HTPC folk, as is the fact it's entirely passively cooled, so bung an SSD in with it (like we did on the next page) and you'll not hear a peep out of it.
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The onboard WiFi has always been attractive for our audience, and it's very neatly integrated here, and Bluetooth allows alternative remote controls to be used natively. It may seem a shame we permanently lose a USB port though, but there's still six plus four more pin-outs available.
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The box includes not just the Asus mini-ITX motherboard, but also the 90W power brick, remote control and IR sensor for it too.