Novatech Ion Fusion review

£309
Price when reviewed

Novatech’s Ion was one of the first in a flurry of nettops that has descended on the PC Pro Labs, and it was also one of the first we were impressed by. It may have had just a low-power Atom processor, but it was a full desktop system with 17in monitor, keyboard and mouse for a mere £234 exc VAT – an excellent first stab.

Novatech Ion Fusion review

The successor to the Ion is the Fusion, and the big difference is that it packs the dual-core variant of the Atom processor – the 330. As with the single-core Atom parts, the 330 runs at 1.6GHz, but it also has an L2 cache of 1MB, which is twice the size of that found in most of the Atom range.

It’s partnered with 1GB of RAM, which helped the Fusion score a respectable 0.48 in our benchmarks. Such diminutive power won’t stretch much beyond gentle multitasking, such as web surfing, word processing and the odd spot of MP3 encoding, but it’s worth noting that the inclusion of a dual-core Atom makes this machine around 20% faster than other nettops. HP’s Compaq CQ2000, Advent’s AIO-100 and the Medion Akoya E2005D all scored less than 0.38 in our benchmarks.

Other components are a sensible mix of desktop and portable parts. The 160GB hard disk is a 3.5in 7,200rpm Western Digital desktop model, ensuring speedy data transfers, and the DVD writer is of the slimline, space-saving laptop kind – a more sensible choice than the bulky desktop drive crammed into the Medion. There’s no wireless included, so you’ll need to rely on the Gigabit Ethernet port to take the Fusion online.

One area where the original Ion disappointed was the chassis, but we’re glad to report that Novatech has made working inside the Fusion marginally easier, with the single DIMM socket no longer hidden beneath the hard disk and optical drive. We’re also pleased to see that the optical drive and hard disk are more accessible – just a few screw removals and some patience away. On the previous machine, they were locked down entirely. It still isn’t quite as impressive as the fold-out design of the HP Compaq CQ2000, though.

The Fusion is easy to live with. The only fan aside from the PSU sits atop the processor, so it’s a quiet machine – unlike the irritatingly intrusive Medion Akoya – and power draw is reasonable too: when in idle the Novatech uses 36W, with this figure rising to 41W with the processor running at maximum.

The chassis looks pleasingly understated, with the two thick bands of silver replaced by thinner, single chrome bands, and there’s a decent amount of connectivity on offer. Two USB ports and a pair of audio jacks on the front of the machine are joined by an eSATA port, while the rear panel hosts four more USB ports, a D-SUB socket and a pair of PS/2s. Even parallel and nine-pin serial ports are provided.

Novatech has upgraded the Fusion’s peripherals as well as the spec. The original Ion came bundled with a 17in Hanns.G monitor, while the Fusion includes a 19in LG Flatron display. Both boast the same resolution at 1,440 x 900, and the LG doesn’t offer a massive improvement in quality either. Colour reproduction is poor, especially with tones at the brighter end of the colour scale, which makes it less than ideal for precise photo editing. On the positive side, there’s little backlight bleed.

Commendably, Novatech has increased the Ion’s processing power and included a 19in monitor without increasing the price to extortionate levels. At £269 exc VAT, it’s £35 more expensive than the original machine, but still cheaper than most of the nettop competition. The Advent AIO-100 costs £374 exc VAT, for instance, and the Eee Top ET1602, with its touchscreen, will set you back £400.

Warranty

Warranty1 yr return to base

Basic specifications

Total hard disk capacity160
RAM capacity1.00GB
Screen size19.0in

Processor

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

Motherboard

Conventional PCI slots free1
Conventional PCI slots total1
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 free0
PCI-E x1 slots total0
Internal SAS connectors0
Wired adapter speed1,000Mbits/sec

Memory

Memory typeDDR2
Memory sockets free0
Memory sockets total1

Graphics card

Multiple SLI/CrossFire cards?no
3D performance settingN/A
Graphics chipsetIntel GMA 950
DVI-I outputs0
HDMI outputs0
VGA (D-SUB) outputs1
DisplayPort outputs0
Number of graphics cardsN/A

Hard disk

Hard diskWestern Digital
Capacity160GB
Internal disk interfaceSATA
Spindle speed7,200RPM
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

Drives

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

Monitor

Monitor make and modelLG Flatron W1934S
Resolution screen horizontal1,440
Resolution screen vertical900
Resolution1440 x 900

Additional Peripherals

SpeakersN/A
Speaker typeN/A

Case

Dimensions268 x 318 x 77mm (WDH)

Free drive bays

Free front panel 5.25in bays0

Rear ports

USB ports (downstream)6
eSATA ports1
PS/2 mouse portyes
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports0
Modemno
3.5mm audio jacks2

Front ports

Front panel USB ports2
Front panel eSATA ports1
Front panel memory card readerno

Mouse & Keyboard

Mouse and keyboardLogitech wireless keyboard and mouse

Operating system and software

OS familyWindows XP

Noise and power

Idle power consumption36W
Peak power consumption41W

Performance tests

Overall application benchmark score0.48
Office application benchmark score0.42
2D graphics application benchmark score0.48
Encoding application benchmark score0.45
Multitasking application benchmark score0.58
3D performance (crysis) low settingsFail
3D performance settingN/A

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