To test the Zotac IONITX-F-E I will be installing it into the following system.
Once the Zotac is up and running I will perform various tests using several benchmarking programs including SiSoft Sandra, Cinebench and Passmark to give you an idea of how the Zotac IonITX-f-e performs in some synthetic benchmarks and possibly some in game benchmarks too, I am curious as to what the ION graphics is actually capable of. As this motherboard is, I guess, primarily aimed at media applications I will see how it handles various types of video formats too.
As this was my first mini ITX build I was quite sure what to expect, it was a little fiddly and doing one thing like fitting the fan made fitting the motherboard awkward but I got it all together with little more than having to struggle to get a couple of screws in. After doing a bit of research it appears the Atom chip does run very warm unless air flow is at a premium. So as the case I am using only has a front 80mm fan and fitting the CPU fan after completing the build would basically mean a complete strip down and rebuild. I erred on the side of caution and as such I decided to fit the fan from the off.
Once the whole system was together it powered up first time and I set about installing Windows 7 onto it. The only issue I came across was running the driver disk as for some reason the auto run feature didn’t seem to work and came up with some compatibility error, so I had to go into the various folders to find the “Set-up.exe” for each driver and install them manually. Once this was done I was good to go.
First things first I’ll be taking a look around the bios.
I was a little surprised to the that the bios was just as in depth as a “full sized” bios, again I didn’t know what to expect but being a mini ITX I was expecting it to be somewhat limited, maybe these boards are more “grown up” than their diminutive stature would suggest.
The first screen is your normal main screen, this is where you can set the time and date and it gives you a bit of info about the system. I have 4Gb of memory fitted but it is only showing 3.3Gb, this maybe a limitation of the chipset? I wouldn’t have thought 750Mb would be reserved for the on board graphics.
The next section along is the Advanced tab. From here you can tweak many settings. Such as set up CPU functions, drive configuration to name a couple, I won’t go into all of them as frankly I’d be lying if I said I understood them all and some I fail to see why anyone would want to change them, USB Configuration for example, why change it to low speed?
One of the things that might be used is the CPU enable or disable a few CPU features such as Hyper Threading.
The next section of the Advanced tab that users might wish to configure is the IDE section, as it is from here you can set up things like raid and write protect your drives, should you wish to. The rest of the advanced features I suspect 99% of users will leave as is as there is no real need to change the settings, unless for example you want your pc to boot after a power cut, in which case the APM Configuration section might be of interest to you.
The next tab along is the PCI PnP tab. Again I suspect most users won’t have much need to change anything here but should you need to change anything like enable “Palette Snooping”? this is where it is found.
The next tab is the Boot tab. It is from here you can set up the boot settings and boot device priority as well as list the various connected drives.
Going into the Boot Settings Configuration menu you can enable / disable quick boot as well as “Quiet Boot” this effectively allows you to see the post screen rather than the Zotac Logo.
Moving along to the next tab, Security, this is where you can set up any passwords and enable “Boot Sector Virus Protection”.
The final tab, Chipset, is where most of the functions are that, if I am honest, I didn’t expect to see. From here you can entre both Northbridge and Southbridge configurations screens as well as the hardware monitor.
The hardware monitor shows the temperature and fan speed readings. And allows you to fix the CPU fan speed, as it is pretty quiet at full speed I would leave it set to Full On.
Entering the Northbridge configuration screen there is actually a few options for increasing voltages. The memory and chipset voltages only have a couple of options for adding up to 0.1v or thereabouts, but the CPU has MANY levels of voltage, this I find VERY surprising as you must surely need much better cooling than standard to put anything like these voltages through the Atom chip, and I don’t ever recall seeing after market coolers for an Atom CPU.
If you enter the Performance Options then you can overclock your Atom CPU and manually set your memory timings etc.
To overclock your Atom you need to set the System Clock Mode to something other than Auto and this allows you to alter the FSB.
That pretty much covers everything in the bios so it’s time to get some testing done I feel. All of the non gaming tests will be carried out using SiSoft Sandra, Cinebench and Passmark 64 bit.
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