Novatech Ion review

Price when reviewed

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.


Warranty1 yr return to base

Basic specifications

Total hard disk capacity160
RAM capacity1.00GB
Screen size17.0in


CPU familyIntel Atom
CPU nominal frequency1.60GHz
CPU overclocked frequencyN/A


Conventional PCI slots free0
Conventional PCI slots total0
PCI-E x16 slots free0
PCI-E x16 slots total0
PCI-E x8 slots free0
PCI-E x8 slots total0
PCI-E x4 slots free0
PCI-E x4 slots total0
PCI-E x1 slots free1
PCI-E x1 slots total1
Internal SATA connectors2
Internal SAS connectors0
Internal PATA connectors0
Internal floppy connectors0
Wired adapter speed100Mbits/sec


Memory typeDDR2
Memory sockets free0
Memory sockets total1

Graphics card

Multiple SLI/CrossFire cards?no
Graphics chipsetIntel GMA 950
DVI-I outputs0
HDMI outputs0
VGA (D-SUB) outputs1
DisplayPort outputs0
Number of graphics cardsN/A

Hard disk

Hard disk usable capacity149GB
Internal disk interfaceSATA
Hard disk 2 make and modelN/A
Hard disk 2 nominal capacityN/A
Hard disk 2 formatted capacityN/A
Hard disk 2 spindle speedN/A
Hard disk 2 cache sizeN/A
Hard disk 3 make and modelN/A
Hard disk 3 nominal capacityN/A
Hard disk 4 make and modelN/A
Hard disk 4 nominal capacityN/A


Optical disc technologyDVD writer
Optical disk 2 make and modelN/A
Optical disk 3 make and modelN/A


Monitor make and modelHanns.G HB175A
Resolution screen horizontal1,440
Resolution screen vertical900
Resolution1440 x 900
DVI inputs0
HDMI inputs0
VGA inputs1
DisplayPort inputs0


Case formatMini ITX
Dimensions282 x 280 x 95mm (WDH)

Free drive bays

Free front panel 5.25in bays0

Rear ports

USB ports (downstream)6
PS/2 mouse portyes
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports0
3.5mm audio jacks6

Front ports

Front panel USB ports2
Front panel memory card readerno

Mouse & Keyboard

Mouse and keyboardLogitech wired keyboard and mouse

Operating system and software

OS familyWindows XP

Noise and power

Idle power consumption33W
Peak power consumption39W

Performance tests

Overall application benchmark score0.39
Office application benchmark score0.48
2D graphics application benchmark score0.32
Encoding application benchmark score0.38
Multitasking application benchmark score0.39

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