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So energy usage is the only main advantage of the Novatech Ion Fusion over other SFF PCs so far, but what about price? Though Novatech's Ion range starts at £188.99, that's for an Atom 230 system. The one reviewed here is £309.35, which includes Windows XP.
For this kind of money, the biggest threats to Novatech's latest Atom PC are probably good old laptops. It's not difficult to find a 15.4in notebook with a 2GHz or faster Intel Celeron CPU, 2GB of RAM, similar 160GB hard drive and Windows Vista for around £300. This kind of configuration offers more of everything (including Wi-Fi and a card reader) and will do all the things the Ion Fusion can and possibly a little bit more too.
However, if you prefer the desktop route the Ion Fusion is more difficult to beat, but there are still other options worth considering. A compelling alternative is Asus' Eee Box, which is available with mouse and keyboard (albeit without a monitor) for only £246.16. This gets you a similarly-performing configuration except with a single-core Atom and no optical drive, but makes up for those by being smaller, lighter, quieter and more attractive, plus it offers digital connectivity in the form of DVI, built-in Draft-N wireless and a memory-card reader. However, add in the cost of a generic 19in monitor and you're looking at around £330, which also makes it £20 more expensive.
Furthermore, there are actual nVidia Ion nettops to be considered: Acer's up and coming Aspire Revo for example is available to pre-order for the same price as the Eee Box, offering double the memory, Vista Premium instead of XP, six USB ports, eSATA and HDMI - and best of all, thanks to its far superior graphics card it can not only handle light gaming but also Full HD films.
Overall then, if it's power you're after, the average laptop will offer more, though if you'd rather have a desktop machine Novatech provides a dual-core Atom system at a reasonable price. However, that dual-core CPU isn't worth its premium over single core in this kind of system, and in terms of value you're better off with the alternatives above or even Novatech's own Ion system, which is decent value at just under £190.
While its price will attract many, Novatech's Ion Fusion system isn't quite the bargain it purports to be. For the kind of user that might use it, its dual-core Atom 330 doesn't offer a significant performance boost over a single-core one, while we also felt it to be too large and noisy for a low-power system.
Addendum - 12/05/09: This review, both its contents and scores, has been amended to reflect a mistake regarding pricing in the original review. We apologise, both to our readers and to the manufacturer, for any confusion caused.