Zotac pairs Intel’s best Atom with an NVidia
GPU on a tiny mini-ITX board, but can it stand up to fierce competition?NVidia’s ION chipset and its next
Generation successor proved to be a welcome partner to the Intel Atom chip,
providing a healthy does of graphical grunt that far outstripped what Atom
NVidia’s let ION go dormant, though, so
Zotac has stepped into the breach with its D2700-ITX WiFi Supreme by partnering
an Atom processor with one of NVidia’s own GeForce chips – the low-end GT 520.
D2700-ITX WiFi Supreme
Strapped a discrete GPU to a motherboard
sounds like a potent combination, but there’s no denying that the GT 520 is a
low-level part. It’s only got 48 stream processors, for instance, and its core
is clocked to a middling 810MHz.
It’s partnered with Intel’s 32nm D2700.
That’s not saying much, though: its 2.13GHz clock speed is shared across just
two Hyper-Threading cores, there’s no sign of Turbo Boost, and there’s just 1MB
of L2 cache.
There’s nothing to shout about when it
comes to our benchmarks, then. An overall application result of 0.31 is only a
little more than what we’d expect from a normal Atom and will only handle the
most basic of software, and don’t think the GT 520 will net you much gaming: it
scored just 26fps in our Low-quality, 1,3666x768 Crysis test. That means you’ll
only be able to play modern titles if graphical settings are drastically
Instead, the Zotac has strengths in other
areas. For starters, its mini-ITX form factor means it’ll fit into a wide
variety of smaller, neater enclosures, and the relatively small heatsink needed
to chill the two main chips also adds versatility.
Zotac has crammed an admirable amount of
functionality onto such a little slab of PCB. Two aerial poking out from the
backplate signify 802.11n wi-fi – its chip is slotted perpendicular to the
motherboard so it’s fit – and the board itself offers a full speed PCI-Express
16x socket and two SO-DIMMs ready to accept up to 4GB of DDR3 memory – the
minimum we’d expect for a well-specified PC these days.
There are two SATA/300 sockets, and a
stocked backplate: two USB 3 sockets, four USB 2, two PS/2 ports for legacy
peripherals, and DVI-I, HDMI and DisplayPort outputs.
One intriguing addition is the mSATA
socket. It takes up a fair amount of space on the tiny board, but this is one
of the first times we’ve seen it on a motherboard. It’s designed to handle tiny
SSDs with smaller capacity – ideal for storing Windows on a super-fast disk or
to use as a cache to improve boot times.
D2700-ITX WiFi Supreme
There’s plenty to like here, but the
Zotac’s main problem is its weak base performance – and its price. $240 is a
lot of money to spend on a mini-ITX board and, even though it comes with CPU
and GPU on board, more attractive options immediately present themselves: AMD’s
Atom-bashing mobile Fusion chips come with a similarly powerful Radeon GPU and
can also be soldered onto small motherboards, and those parts start at around
half the price of the Zotac.
Spend the full $240 and the Zotac looks
even less tempting, with AMD’s desktop Fusion chips coming into play: mini-ITX
boards have more ports, accept desktop RAM and cost between $75 and $150, and
more powerful processors start at $65 for the A4-3400 and top out at $130 for
the quad-core A8-3870K, which includes a Radeon HD 6550D graphics chip.
That’s a recipe for a much more powerful
system, and it’s a configuration that puts the Zotac in the shade. It’s
undoubtedly a versatile little board, but the Intel Atom is long past its
sell-by date – and the addition of a slightly better NVidia GPY doesn’t change
The high prices means other options are
much better value
2.13GHz Intel Atom D2700 processor
NVidia GeForce GT 520 graphics
2xUSB 3, 4xUSB 2, 2xPS/2
DVI-I, HDMI, DisplayPort