Novatech Ion review
The last few months have seen several diminutive nettop machines arrive in the PC Pro Labs. Manufacturers such as Asus, with its Eee Top, Eee Box and Advent, with the AIO-100, have tried to appeal with touchscreens, stylish design and other gimmickry. The Novatech ION looks sedate in comparison, but it offers the best value we’ve yet seen: a PC, 17in TFT, keyboard and mouse for £234 exc VAT.
Admittedly, the peripherals included in this package are basic. The screen, sporting a native resolution of 1,440 x 900, is from budget specialist Hanns.G and includes the standard D-SUB and DVI ports and none of the multimedia-friendly extras we’ve come to expect from more expensive panels.
Image quality, however, is reasonably good and certainly more than adequate for the web surfing and word processing that this low-power machine will be used for. We found that colour definition wasn’t the best and that some areas of the screen had a slight red hue, but these are minor issues with what is a surprisingly good budget screen.
The keyboard and mouse follow suit. Logitech’s Deluxe 250 keyboard is, despite its name, a basic product – again, though, as with the monitor, it’s entirely adequate for everyday use. The mouse is another Logitech model and, aside from a scrollwheel that’s fiddly to click, is perfectly comfortable.
Under its plain Jane hood, the ION is broadly the same as the rest of the nettops we’ve examined. The processor is an Intel Atom N230, a single-core, desktop-specific part that offers the same 1.6GHz clock speed as the N270 mobile CPU, which has found its way into both of Asus’ nettop machines. Both processors also offer 512Kb of L2 cache and a FSB of 533MHz.
As such, benchmark scores were in line with the rest of the nettop crowd. In our 2D benchmarks, the Novatech managed an overall result of 0.39 – slightly quicker than the Advent AIO-100 and on the same level as every other Atom-powered netbook and nettop on the market. As usual, it’s enough to handle web browsing and Office tasks, but try to do anything more demanding with it, and it will struggle.
The 160GB hard disk is adequate – after all, there will be no HD video to store with this specification – and a single gigabyte of RAM is plenty for Windows XP. Integrated Intel GMA 950 graphics put paid to any gaming too, but the inclusion of an optical drive – a DVD writer in this case – adds versatility. There’s no wireless adapter, however, which is a disappointment considering both of Asus’ nettops and Advent’s AIO-100 boast this feature.
One area where the ION differs from much of its competition is the chassis. Whereas most nettops on the market make accessing components almost impossible, a single screw on the rear of the Novatech lets you in. Inside there’s a single PCI-Express 16x slot free on the motherboard that could benefit from the inclusion of a WLAN card or a low-profile graphics card.
But before you get too excited, it’s not all good news. Though the case is easy to crack open, accessing components is unnecessarily awkward: the single free DIMM slot and hard disk are tucked away underneath the optical drive, which is bolted to the chassis with specialist fasteners.
Nevertheless, it’s hard to criticise the Novatech too much when you consider its main selling point – it’s price. Where other nettop systems have come too close to standard desktop pricing for comfort – the £354 cost of the Eee Top, for instance, could buy a cheap, fully-featured desktop tower system – there’s no cause for concern here. With the 17in monitor included, Novatech is asking a paltry £234 for the ION. It may be an Atom-powered machine, but it’s one of the cheapest desktop packages we’ve ever seen, and it costs even less than the majority of netbooks. It’s even cheaper without the monitor, dropping to an astonishing £164 exc VAT.
|Warranty||1 yr return to base|
|Total hard disk capacity||160|
|CPU family||Intel Atom|
|CPU nominal frequency||1.60GHz|
|CPU overclocked frequency||N/A|
|Conventional PCI slots free||0|
|Conventional PCI slots total||0|
|PCI-E x16 slots free||0|
|PCI-E x16 slots total||0|
|PCI-E x8 slots free||0|
|PCI-E x8 slots total||0|
|PCI-E x4 slots free||0|
|PCI-E x4 slots total||0|
|PCI-E x1 slots free||1|
|PCI-E x1 slots total||1|
|Internal SATA connectors||2|
|Internal SAS connectors||0|
|Internal PATA connectors||0|
|Internal floppy connectors||0|
|Wired adapter speed||100Mbits/sec|
|Memory sockets free||0|
|Memory sockets total||1|
|Multiple SLI/CrossFire cards?||no|
|Graphics chipset||Intel GMA 950|
|VGA (D-SUB) outputs||1|
|Number of graphics cards||N/A|
|Hard disk usable capacity||149GB|
|Internal disk interface||SATA|
|Hard disk 2 make and model||N/A|
|Hard disk 2 nominal capacity||N/A|
|Hard disk 2 formatted capacity||N/A|
|Hard disk 2 spindle speed||N/A|
|Hard disk 2 cache size||N/A|
|Hard disk 3 make and model||N/A|
|Hard disk 3 nominal capacity||N/A|
|Hard disk 4 make and model||N/A|
|Hard disk 4 nominal capacity||N/A|
|Optical disc technology||DVD writer|
|Optical disk 2 make and model||N/A|
|Optical disk 3 make and model||N/A|
|Monitor make and model||Hanns.G HB175A|
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,440|
|Resolution screen vertical||900|
|Resolution||1440 x 900|
|Case format||Mini ITX|
|Dimensions||282 x 280 x 95mm (WDH)|
Free drive bays
|Free front panel 5.25in bays||0|
|USB ports (downstream)||6|
|PS/2 mouse port||yes|
|Electrical S/PDIF audio ports||0|
|Optical S/PDIF audio output ports||0|
|3.5mm audio jacks||6|
|Front panel USB ports||2|
|Front panel memory card reader||no|
Mouse & Keyboard
|Mouse and keyboard||Logitech wired keyboard and mouse|
Operating system and software
|OS family||Windows XP|
Noise and power
|Idle power consumption||33W|
|Peak power consumption||39W|
|Overall application benchmark score||0.39|
|Office application benchmark score||0.48|
|2D graphics application benchmark score||0.32|
|Encoding application benchmark score||0.38|
|Multitasking application benchmark score||0.39|
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