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Zotac ION-ITX-A Review
Posted on May 12, 2009 Go to:

Video Playback

We have collected a number of test files over the years representing different classes of video encoded in increasingly high bandwidth ways, from MPEG1 (VCD) through MPEG2 (DVD) and MPEG4 (DivX) to H264 720p and 1080p files. All but the lowliest current Mini-ITX boards can handle MPEG4, but we expect nothing less than full playback of anything we can throw at it from the ION - as it has CUDA support...

PureVideo™ HD and CUDA™ support

NVIDIA PureVideo™ HD provides hardware acceleration for decoding the compression routines used on both Blu-ray and HD DVD movies: H.264, VC-1, and MPEG-2.

NVIDIA CUDA™ is a framework that enables programmers to write software that exploits the parallel processing power of GPUs.

The ION Chipset supports both of these technologies, giving two ways to accelerate video. We used a tried and tested combination of ffdshow and the CoreAVC 1.9.5 codec to enable CUDA video acceleration on both boards, and were able to accelerate our videos from within Vista Media Center without any problems.

Given more time with our review sample we suspect VDPAU should be possible under Linux using (for example) Mplayer, VLC or MythTV.

Due to these time constraints we did not fit a Blu-Ray drive to test PureVideo HD acceleration, but have no reason to suspect it wouldn't function perfectly. We'll update this review in a few weeks when we do.

The ION-ITX-A was able to playback both local files and files played from a NAS over a local network. Our test files varied between standard DivX, 1280 x 720 and 1920 x 1080p H264 files. Both boards would have struggled with their 1080p files without the CUDA support.

We estimated CPU load using the task manager, so our figures are a little subjective. We know from our temperature measurements that the ION barely gets warm whilst doing this which makes it all the more impressive.

Audio Performance

Both the TOSLINK and RCA S/PDIF digital audio outputs worked perfectly through our amplifier. That's good enough for us.

Other ION Chipset Features

Some other things we didn't have time to test fully: The ION Chipset supports PhysX™ Physics acceleration as well as nView™ multiple display support for up to 2 monitors, and MediaShield™ giving RAID 0, 1 and 0+1. This board has undiscovered depths.

But can it playback 1080p?

Yes it can.

Final Thoughts -->

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