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I'm considering getting a small-footprint "nettop" computer to use as a home theater PC with my Samsung LN40A550 HDTV. I've been looking at systems like the AS Rock ION HT330, the Acer AspireRevo 3610, or the Asus EeeBox PC EB1501. These are all systems with NVIDIA ION chipset (Intel Atom N330 dual core CPU + NVIDIA GeForce 9400 GPU).

Is the NVIDIA ION chipset powerful enough to support media streaming at HD resolutions (e.g. via Boxee, Hulu, Netflix) and casual gaming (e.g. World of Warcraft, Madden NFL) reasonably well without herky-jerky video output?

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I'd say Yes and Sort of.

I've had no problems with HD content on my Acer Revo, both in Windows 7 and Ubuntu. disclaimer: the links are to my Stack Exchange site.

As far as games go, the Ion can handle modern games if the resolutions and detail are dropped right down. There's some info at Tom's hardware you might find helpful.

If you want a mini ITX-based setup that can handle a bit more gaming oomph, then consider the Zotac H55ITX-AE LGA1156 mobo, it can take an i3/i5/i7 processor, up to 8GB DDR3 and will be a lot more capable at handling demanding modern games.

With this kind of setup though you'll need more cooling, and a bigger case to handle the larger heatsink/fan. The extra power will also need more treatment to work at acceptable volumes for HTPC use. This counteracts some of the benefits of the mini ITX format, though you can still package it up in a fairly dinky case.

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Yes and Yes.

I have one setup and it plays HD content well (I have it hooked up with a Blu ray drive and a 1080p flatscreen) - but the CPU at the same time goes at around 70%, so you may want to get the biggest Atom you can.

As for games, don't expect miracles or to play any AAA releases on highest settings, but most games certainly will be playable.

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