Sport & Auto
- About Future
- Digital Future
- Cookies Policy
- Terms & Conditions
- Investor Relations
- Contact Future
Last year, we came up with an idea for a living room PC that was so small you could Velcro it to the back of your HDTV. This PC would be capable of streaming all things TV and would allow you to finally tell your cable provider where to shove that RJ6 cable. That machine, unfortunately, never materialized, as the hardware just wasn’t ready for prime time.
Little did we know that Polywell was reading our minds when it designed the Giada Ion-100. About the size of a double-decker DVD case, the Giada Ion-100 is a mostly full-featured PC featuring a dual-core processor, 2GB of DDR2/667, a 250GB hard drive, five USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and even Windows 7. So, what sets this apart from other book-size PCs? The graphics. The Giada is the second PC we’ve tested so far with Nvidia’s impressive Ion chipset (the first being HP’s Mini 311 netbook, last month). Other small systems have featured Intel’s pathetic GMA integrated graphics. Ion is far more powerful than the GMA945 graphics found in most nettops and is capable of accelerating Blu-ray content. The system’s dual-core processor is Intel’s Atom 330, which runs at 1.6GHz and features Hyper-Threading and a 64-bit instruction set.
Atom is admittedly the weakling in Intel’s CPU line-up. We’ve long forgiven the chip for its shortcomings when powering $400 netbooks, but can we be so forgiving on a desktop? After all, in a Cinebench 10 benchmark run, the dual-core Atom with HT was only 33 percent faster than a classic Northwood 2.2GHz Pentium 4 sans Hyper-Threading. It’s impressive that the Atom 330 achieves that while consuming one-sixth the power of the P4 chip, but then again, that chip is eight years old. To get an idea of how a modern enthusiast part compares, consider that a Core i7-870 is about 1,700 percent faster than the Pentium 4 in the Cinebench 10 benchmark.
Of course, a machine like the Giada is not about video encoding, or 3D rendering, or gaming. You’ll take the Giada, connect its HDMI cable to your HDTV, turn on the Wi-Fi, and start surfing the web on 50 glorious inches of screen real estate. That’s where the Giada should shine. In the positive column, given the diminutive size of the Giada, the notebook hard drive, and the external power brick, it’s damn-near silent. You would never know the machine was there even during the quietest moments of television watching. Also in the positive column, the Giada is capable of playing Blu-ray content. Paired with Asus’s sweet SBC-04D1S-U Blu-ray USB drive, we played Blu-ray movies without issue. Our only problem came when the onscreen overlays were displayed; the frame rate would drop noticeably.
That leads us to the negatives. Hitches continually vexed us in the one thing the Giada should be perfect at: streaming HD video. While standard-definition video was handled easily, some sites, such as Hulu or YouTube in HD, were laggy when running at full screen even with the latest GPU-accelerated Adobe Flash player installed. On other streaming sites, such as Vimeo, the Giada was mostly OK, but even there occasional hitches hurt the experience. So what’s the problem? That’s hard to say since we’re depending on the reliability of the video sites we’re visiting, but our gut says the Atom is just too under-powered to push content at 1920x1080 resolution without a hiccup or two. By comparison, a standard desktop machine running simultaneously alongside the Giada had no hitches. Polywell’s use of DDR2/800 in single-channel mode instead of DDR3/1333 in dual-channel mode also hampers the machine’s gaming capabilities, as limited as they admittedly are.
That puts the Giada in a bit of a tough spot. If we experienced flawless performance at the one thing the system is seemingly built for, we’d be inclined to say this is the perfect streaming PC, but it falls way too short there for our tastes.
Amazingly tiny and quiet machine that you can hide anywhere.
Atom, even dual-core, is still under-powered for the chore.
|Polywell Giada Ion 100 ||Lenovo IdeaPad S12 ||HP Mini 311 |
|Photoshop CS3 (sec) ||552 ||708 ||738|
|MainConcept (sec)||8,858 ||15,060||14,460|
|Quake 3 (fps) ||118 ||61 ||142|
|Quake 4 (fps) ||29 ||4 ||34|
We compared two Atom-based products to the Giada: the 1.66GHz Atom N280 HP Mini 311 with its Ion LE chipset, and the 1.6GHz Lenovo S12 Netbook with its Intel integrated graphics. Both netbooks are single-core machines with Hyper-Threading. Best scores are bolded.
|Processor||Intel 1.6GHz Atom 330 |
|RAM||2GB DDR2/800 in single-channel mode|
|Videocard ||Integrated Nvidia Ion graphics |
|Soundcard ||Onboard Realtek |
|Storage ||250GB Samsung HM250HI (5,400rpm) |
|Case/PSU ||Proprietary case/external power brick |