For some time now the idea of having a very small desktop or laptop system has appealed to a large number of consumers. Companies like Shuttle have been targeting these end users for years with great success and the recent boom in netbooks proves that high performance isn’t as important to some people as functionality and mobility.
In the desktop market unless going for a medium or high specification Shuttle type machine the market was filled with products which may have been small but always involved a number of compromises. Whether it was in overall performance, connectivity or features they were rarely anywhere near as good as the larger alternatives. This changed back around the time of CES 2009 when Nvidia began demonstrating their ION system. At the time it was just a palm sized black box with CPU, GPU and chipset included but the size and promised performance was incredibly appealing.
Since then manufacturers have been hard at work creating products based on the ION and today we have two different approaches on our test bench. The first is from ASRock and is a full prebuilt system and the second, from Zotac, is a motherboard/CPU combination which allows the end user to build a machine to their specifications. Today we will be looking at the pros and cons of both to find out which is best.