With the Novatech Ion Fusion's extremely efficient processor, large case, passive graphics cooling and modest 120W power supply you'd expect this machine to be very quiet, but unfortunately it isn't; in fact it's very noisy. So far then, two of the four major advantages of buying an Atom-based system have been negated: it's not particularly small or quiet, leaving only power usage and price as possible incentives. But before we get onto these, let's have a look at how the Novatech performs.
The one exception to the Ion's otherwise netbook-like specifications (1GB RAM, 160GB HDD, GMA 950 graphics) is of course the Atom 330 processor. Though it still only runs at 1.6GHz, the 330 is the only dual-core Atom, and not only has double the cores but also double the cache of any other Atom. The question is, how much of a difference does this make compared to an equally fast standard Atom such as the N270?
Unfortunately, the simple answer is not that much for most users. For example, both the Novatech Ion Fusion and a standard N270-based (single core 1.6GHz Atom) netbook managed a multi-tasking scenario running several video streams, word editing and browsing simultaneously without any problems.
For gaming and most other applications, the rest of the hardware isn't up to running anything that requires dual-core, leaving pure number crunching (i.e. de/encoding video/music, applying effects to images, or churning through an intense calculation in a spreadsheet) as the main scenario where the dual-core Atom has a serious impact.
To demonstrate just how much of one, we ran an MP3-encoding test, which took 15 minutes on the N270 netbook versus only seven and a half minutes for the same file on the 330. This is a reasonable performance gain, but then again, if you're planning to do this kind of thing you're better off getting a PC based on even a low-end Core 2 Duo or AMD Phenom processor.
However, the one area where the Atom excels is in its energy usage. Obviously the two cores use more than a single core would, but even so, under heavy load (with video files running from a USB flash drive and optical drive plus other tasks running in the background) the Ion Fusion's power usage never went above 46W. In 'everyday' scenarios such as word processing or surfing the net, that figure fell to around 30W - less than what the bundled 19in LG monitor uses. This might seem like a lot compared to the 8.5W maximum of the Linutop 2, but that little box is so basic it can't even run Windows whereas here we're talking about a fully-fledged (if slightly underpowered) PC.