Now we get up to the fun part - testing the system to see what it can do.
Today we are going to compare the ASRock ION 330-BD nettop against the mighty big AMD HTPC system, which we built earlier this year. Back then the total system cost came to around $1800 USD, but it will be cheaper now. It is important to remember that as we are comparing against a nettop, which costs only $650 USD. The full specs of the AMD HTPC system can be found here for comparison sakes.
We will be using the results we obtained using the AMD Athlon X2 4850E 2.5GHz processor. Keep in mind that the AMD HTPC system was running Windows Vista SP1 64-bit and the ASRock nettop is using Windows 7 RC1 build 7100 64-bit.
Drivers Used on the ASRock ION 330-BD: Latest Windows 7 updates and NVIDIA ForceWare 186.08 BETA
To even up the playing field a little bit, we enabled the ASRock EZ Overclocking feature that is found in the BIOS. You can increase the Atom 330 CPU clock speed from 1.6GHz up to a maximum of 2.1GHz. We were surprised to find any type of overclocking at all on this system, and in this case, a 500MHz jump in CPU clock is quite big - almost 24% faster, in fact. All of our tests were completed with the CPU at 2.1GHz, since this proved to be rock solid stable.
Blu-ray CPU Usage
In our first test we measure CPU usage whilst playing back the "hospital" scene from the Blu-ray movie Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.
The swear-happy hospital scene is not super intensive, but it's probably a good indication of standard movie playback in a typical conversation type scene. Hardware acceleration was enabled, which means that work was off-loaded to the NVIDIA ION processor, thankfully. We measured CPU utilization (maximum and average) using Windows 7 Performance Monitor.
The ASRock ION 330-BD nettop had no issues at all playing back 1080p HD content and it did it amazingly well for a system this size. Compared to the AMD HTPC, it actually showed better results in the CPU usage department, which means ION is doing its job very well here indeed.
Playback was silky smooth with no missed frames, overall very impressive.