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Novatech Ion Fusion - Atom 330 PC

As well as being the first to make nVidia's 3D Vision kit available in the UK, Novatech was one of the first, after Asus, to offer a selection of Nettop systems. Here we take a look at its latest, the Ion Fusion.

Sadly, though the name might imply otherwise, Novatech's Atom desktops are not based on nVidia's revolutionary Ion platform, which incorporates significantly better graphics than the current alternatives. Instead, these Ions use the good old Intel D945GCLF2D motherboard, based on the less tongue-twisting 945GC Express Chipset. Coincidence or not, it's a less than ideal situation to have a system with a name that infers one thing but delivers another. At least you all now know what you're getting.

Aside from its dual-core Atom 330, the Ion Fusion's basic specifications are the same as most netbooks out there, including the underpowered integrated Intel GMA 950 graphics chip. However, before we get into the performance implications of this, let's take a look at the overall package Novatech supplies.

Even before unpacking everything you can tell it's a compact bundle, with the box (containing monitor, peripherals and PC) taking up no more room than the average PC tower-case box. Inside, everything is well protected but easy to unpack.

Starting with the peripherals, both keyboard and mouse are cheap, generic Logitech models finished in matte black to match the monitor and PC. As per usual with bundled rodents, the reasonably comfortable optical mouse is ambidextrous. It glides along smoothly on four small Teflon feet and has two buttons that operate with a positive click, and a rubberised four-way scroll-wheel with notched feedback.

The keyboard doesn't offer a wrist-rest, which made typing somewhat uncomfortable for me. Despite this, key feedback is good, if a tad spongy. Layout is uncomplicated, without any media shortcuts or other special keys.

As far as the monitor goes, our Ion Fusion sample came with an LG Flatron W1934S - a 19in model with a 1,440 x 900 resolution - which is as basic as it gets. In fact, the last monitor I looked at without any form of digital connectivity was the 16in Chimei CMV-633A that passed through our offices over a year ago. Of course, it's not such a big issue since the Ion Fusion only supports VGA anyway and given the system only costs £310 with the monitor, keyboard and mouse, it's hardly a cause for complaint.

Putting the monitor together is a straightforward matter of clicking the stand's neck into its round base. Its styling is simplistic though not unattractive, with its fancy blue-backlit power button. Beside this are the other controls, which are easy to use, despite their rather faint labels. The menu structure is logical with a variety of presets on offer and even basic aspect ratio controls (a feature that the very cheapest monitors sometimes lack).

Image quality is average, with the usual failings of a TN panel such as poor greyscale gradation. Viewing angles are reasonable though, and text is nice and sharp. There was a slight hint of ghosting, which is very rare these days, but since the Atom CPU plus GMA 950 combo backed by 1GB of RAM is not exactly a gaming setup, it's not much of an issue.

Though the W1934S' standby power usage of 1W is very low, after the amazing 30W maximum of Samsung's 23in EcoFit SyncMaster P2370 its typical usage figure of 36W seems less impressive.

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