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Ion SFF Reference Design  (Source: Nvidia)

Nvidia Ion Platform Board   (Source: Nvidia)
Nvidia gears up to challenge Intel

Virtually all netbooks shipping today feature integrated graphics by Intel as a cost-effective and easily implemented solution. Intel's integrated graphics, while providing a minimal amount of performance, are adequate for most netbook buyers who are looking for an affordable and portable secondary or tertiary system.

Nvidia has wanted to challenge Intel in this growing market, which will ship 35 million netbooks this year. The first step was the release of the 9400M GPU in October, featuring 16 CUDA capable cores and taking up half the space of previous integrated GPUs. However, to replace Intel's integrated graphics, Nvidia needed to replace the entire chipset, which they are planning to do with the Ion platform, featuring the 9400M. NVIDIA expects that designs using Ion will be much thinner and smaller than current systems. It will be used in sub-notebooks under twelve inches, netbooks under ten inches, and small form factor desktop and media PCs.

Microsoft has now certified the Ion platform as being Windows Vista Capable, as its graphical capabilities allow the use of Windows Vista's Aero interface or the upcoming Windows 7.  It has also qualified WHQL (Windows Hardware Quality Labs) drivers for the Ion platform. Currently, most netbooks run Linux or Windows XP Home Edition.

Netbooks using the Ion platform are expected to be available in the summer. It will face strong competition from the next generation Atom platform, codenamed Pineview.

Pineview Atoms will integrate a GPU core and a memory controller into either the die or chip package. It will be produced on Intel's low power 45nm process, and feature an extremely competitive price at a much smaller form factor. Ion will have to be extremely price competitive, even though it offers much better graphical performance.

Whichever the market chooses, netbooks will be cheaper, faster, lighter, and have longer battery life this summer. The winner will be consumers.



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Getting dubious
By fishbits on 2/12/2009 11:16:21 AM , Rating: 1
Vista! Great! Wait... people will want XP or Windows 7. I mean, it's a step and all, but a relatively meaningless one from a consumer standpoint.

Congrats though, on Nvidia being able to get articles on Ion out each and every week, considering that "Netbooks using the Ion platform are expected to be available in the summer." We've been hearing about how Ion is great and ready to go for how long now, and its debut on its targeted platform is still four months away?

Every week that goes by, more people decide they can't wait for Nvidia to get in the game, and buy a netbook without Ion. Every week that goes by, Intel gets time to catch up. Surely there's more to this story as to what's not ready yet?

I have high hopes for Ion and hope it succeeds, but things seem a little out of kilter. Let's see if next week brings another non-story designed by Nvidia to keep Ion in the consciousness, with the press diligently playing along. "Ion platform fully compatible with Wordpad." I hope the press pays as much attention if when it finally comes out it doesn't live up to the longstanding "no power/thermal drawbacks, and only $50 or so netbook price premium" claims.




RE: Getting dubious
By omnicronx on 2/12/2009 11:32:00 AM , Rating: 2
Most people did not buy a netbook for 720p playback, and the ability to kind of play games at low resolutions.

As great as an advancement the Ion is, its not necessity for netbooks, nor will it make them any smaller (perhaps thinner, but not smaller dimensions wise) or faster.(still the same Atom CPU that netbooks with Intel chipsets have)

It will also not give better battery performance. Nvidia has stated it will be on par with current netbooks, but I just don't believe that.

I can't wait for a desktop version though! It would be great to have a small and silent HTPC with 720p playback ability (and HDMI/DVI).


RE: Getting dubious
By StevoLincolnite on 2/12/2009 11:54:21 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
As great as an advancement the Ion is, its not necessity for netbooks, nor will it make them any smaller (perhaps thinner, but not smaller dimensions wise) or faster.(still the same Atom CPU that netbooks with Intel chipsets have)


Might not make them smaller, but it will make them faster under several cases.

For instance under Windows XP in the nVidia Driver panel options, you can enable a feature to Minimise/Maximise windows faster.

With Windows 7 and Vista having a 3D Accelerated capable Graphical user interface, it should also bring some additional performance increases in that area as well, giving it a more snappier feel.

Plus webcam performance might improve as well, not sure if you have used an Intel IGP, but whenever those IGP's attempt to run anything 3D with a 2D overlay (Perhaps a video time counter mover the video stream?) it suffers from incredible performance losses. - That's what I have noticed on my x3100/965 IGP anyhow.

Then you have older games which are perfectly playable on a Netbook, I call them "Time wasters".
Games like Bejeweled, Tetris, Various card games are all starting to become more and more reliant on 3D Accelerators as time goes on, plus they are perfectly capable of being played on a tiny screen.

I would also love a desktop version as well, something small and light to throw in my car and where I can hide it in an in-conspicuous space.


RE: Getting dubious
By quiksilvr on 2/12/2009 1:49:11 PM , Rating: 1
I say nVidia should wait until Windows 7 is released and then come out with Ion netbooks with Windows 7 (that's what I'm waiting for at least)


RE: Getting dubious
By omnicronx on 2/12/2009 3:54:28 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Plus webcam performance might improve as well, not sure if you have used an Intel IGP, but whenever those IGP's attempt to run anything 3D with a 2D overlay (Perhaps a video time counter mover the video stream?) it suffers from incredible performance losses.
Very true, there will be many areas where we will see slight performance increases, especially in 3d scenarios that are medium hardware intensive, that the 9400m can easily handle and the aging Intel IGP cannot.

That being said, don't expect a boost as a result of the use of Aero. I expect users will quickly find it much slower than having it disabled.
quote:
Games like Bejeweled, Tetris, Various card games are all starting to become more and more reliant on 3D Accelerators as time goes on, plus they are perfectly capable of being played on a tiny screen.
I agree with you here too, the games I have previewed in Windows 7 definitely make use of 3d Acceleration, however limited it may be.

My original statement was a generalization that I should not have made. I was talking about normal tasks that someone would use a netbook for, specifically web browser, listening to music, and watching low end video. These are the areas in which you should not expect a vast improvement over the Intel Chipset/IGP.

Nice post though, you made some great points I didn't even think of.


RE: Getting dubious
By TomZ on 2/12/2009 4:16:59 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
That being said, don't expect a boost as a result of the use of Aero. I expect users will quickly find it much slower than having it disabled.
I don't think so, since with Aero, the work is handled by the GPU instead of the CPU. I can't imagine it ever being slower, even with a low-end GPU. Aero is not that resource-intensive.


RE: Getting dubious
By omnicronx on 2/12/2009 7:41:42 PM , Rating: 2
In comparison to having it disabled i.e no 3d acceleration at all. Having Aero enabled does not take stress off the CPU, it just allows the 3d acceleration portion to be offloaded to the GPU, when it is disabled there is no 3d acceleration at all(i.e CPU does the essentially same amount of work with Aero on or off). Aero is more resource intensive than one would think. In linux you can have the same features as Aero running off the same Intel IGP that cannot handle Aero.


RE: Getting dubious
By mindless1 on 2/15/2009 2:09:20 AM , Rating: 2
The last thing that will ever matter is the maximizing or minimizing windows, time. That is slowed down mostly by the special effects settings that people will disable if their goal is shortening that period. It is very low CPU % utilization, in basic use a cheap poor SSD controller will be the larger impact.

People will disable the 3D accelerated interface to make it faster either way, and save battery life. Webcam performance will not be improved, that is taking an incoming USB stream, it would only matter if you were playing it back on the same system using a hardware overlay but why would you playback on same system except once to make sure it works? Otherwise, even lowly old chipsets can do hardware overlays without any impact on the rest of the system performance.

The solution is simple, disable things that slow a system down when the criteria is small form factor and low performance to get there. The IGP chipset will only have two main advantages, accelerated video playback and playing older games, IF those games support the netbook resolutions available.


RE: Getting dubious
By fishbits on 2/12/2009 12:21:06 PM , Rating: 2
"Most people did not buy a netbook for 720p playback, and the ability to kind of play games at low resolutions."

No, but it is a great tiebreaker, or enough to make a waverer purchase. And something I'd have paid for, were Ion available when I needed a netbook to take on trips. And yeah, in the hotel I did fire up a couple of MMOs and wished the performance were better. Next will be installing MAME and tossing a controller in my luggage.

"As great as an advancement the Ion is, its not necessity for netbooks..."
So little in computer hardware purchasing these days can be deemed "necessity." Doesn't mean customers should do without, or apologize for what they want.

"... nor will it make them any smaller (perhaps thinner, but not smaller dimensions wise)"
I really don't want keyboards/screens any smaller than the 9-10" form factors already out. My smartphone's screen and keyboard are MUCH smaller than my netbook, but that doesn't make it a preferable computing device, even if it had equivalent processing power to a netbook.


RE: Getting dubious
By omnicronx on 2/12/09, Rating: 0
RE: Getting dubious
By fishbits on 2/12/2009 3:40:48 PM , Rating: 2
You're saying that people who have 720p media should have to re-encode it for smooth playback? I'd rather the hardware be able to handle it, should the user wish to view it. No idea why you think DVI or HDMI is required to enjoy resolutions higher than 480p on external monitors.

I take it that your omission means that you now understand where better graphics capabilities are a plus (something odd to have to explain on this site), and that shrinking the width and height of netbooks isn't a goal of Ion.

It is clear an Ion-based system isn't going to be desirable to you. Don't know why it bothers you so that people whose needs are different from yours be given the choice to buy hardware that will help obtain them. You will not be forced to buy one, so there's no need to demand everyone else adopt your usage profile. If you're happy with less, don't get upset that other users opt to utilize more.


RE: Getting dubious
By omnicronx on 2/12/2009 4:20:39 PM , Rating: 2
I meant 720p as a video standard, I never meant to imply that you cannot enjoy resolutions higher than 1024x600 via VGA output. 720p/1080i/1080p are not VGA resolutions.(common misconception) Furthermore 720p+ video is not mainstream, stop pretending the majority of Netbook users will take advantage of 720p decoding once the Ion platform is released.(and for those with BD, vista+ requires HDCP i.e a digital connection to output 720p+)
quote:
It is clear an Ion-based system isn't going to be desirable to you. Don't know why it bothers you so that people whose needs are different from yours be given the choice to buy hardware that will help obtain them.
Buddy they are called Netbooks for a reason, you should really follow what you preach because it seems what YOU may find desirable is not what the masses will care about. I am not the kind of person that thinks 'because I want it, everyone must want it', many of my previous posts in other articles illustrate this. Heck a very large majority of Laptop which already have the ability to play 720p+ let alone 1080i/1080p video do not make use of it, what makes you think Netbook users are going to magically jump on the bandwagon.


RE: Getting dubious
By fishbits on 2/12/2009 5:16:31 PM , Rating: 2
"stop pretending the majority of Netbook users will take advantage of 720p decoding once the Ion platform is released"
When did I say any such thing? Quote, please.

"Buddy they are called Netbooks for a reason, you should really follow what you preach because it seems what YOU may find desirable is not what the masses will care about."
What are you going on about? I said, quite directly, that people should have the choice to have better graphics power, not that all should. I never said that everyone, or even most, would want this.

Your posts have been complaint after complaint about the capabilities that the Ion platform brings (Often erroneous, see multiple corrections above), and argumentative when people have different hardware wants than yours. Mine have been supportive that the platform will be available, not saying that everyone or many should want it. Now if you had an argument against something that I actually said, this could start to make sense.

"Heck a very large majority of Laptop which already have the ability to play 720p+ let alone 1080i/1080p video do not make use of it, what makes you think Netbook users are going to magically jump on the bandwagon."
I said they would... where? I'm confident that there is a voice in your head that you're having this argument with. If you can snap out of your flamerage for one or two minutes and actually read what was written, you'd realize that that voice is not mine.


RE: Getting dubious
By omnicronx on 2/12/2009 8:01:18 PM , Rating: 2
Let me make this clear.. I have no problem with the Ion platform, in fact I can't wait for it be released for various reasons. The entire point of the post that YOU originally replied too essentially stated that although all of these features are nice, they will go unnoticed by the vast majority of netbook users. Aside from Aero, it will not help most people in day to day use.(and for some reason you decided to go on a VGA output rant, which proved to be unfounded).

Furthermore you go on a rant about 'hardware wants' claiming I know what hardware people want. Never did I claim this, my only claim was what people are currently using their netbooks for, nothing to do with my wants or needs.(especially mine) Funny thing is, I don't want or need a netbook, I was merely making an observation based on people that I know that have netbooks (from various demographics) and from what I have read.


RE: Getting dubious
By mindless1 on 2/15/2009 2:00:35 PM , Rating: 2
Personally, I'd definitely watch movies on the go if the netbook would handle them smoothly, but not if I had to recode at lower res.


RE: Getting dubious
By GaryJohnson on 2/12/2009 3:44:23 PM , Rating: 2
I bet we see DVI on ION netbooks. But I agree that HD playback from a netbook should be a low priority.

Netbooks are missing, in my opinion, unanimous 3G support (a few have it but they're carrier locked or overpriced) and an express card slot (or two).


RE: Getting dubious
By kilkennycat on 2/12/2009 7:56:48 PM , Rating: 2
Your wish for a 'desktop' HTPC version is already granted. uATX motherboards with either the 9300-IGP (Asus) or the 9400-IGP (Gigabyte) are available. Before Christmas, I built a HTPC with the Asus P5N7A-VM motherboard. HDCP/HDMI inc Audio, Display-Port, DVI/VGA outputs, HD-Audio, TOSLink and analog-audio outputs. The quietest PC that I have ever built. Can take up to 16 Gbyte of DDR2-800 (4 slots) and all Intel Core2 varieties. I have equipped it with a Quad Q9550 and a terabyte of disk, as I also use it for desktop video-editing and photo editing. All in a uATX mini-tower case. Can also take a (single) optional PCIe-x16 graphics card, should you wish to include a little high-performance PC gaming. If the graphics card is nVidia 8xxx or above, you can even run PhysX on the IGP if you don't want to load down the graphics card with double-duty in PhysX capable games, although in this case you would have to use the graphics card video ouput to a monitor instead of the IGP output. Will equip this PC with a Blu-ray drive when the price is right, as the 9300 or 9400 video-decoder is fully capable of handling all HD decode formats.


RE: Getting dubious
By omnicronx on 2/12/2009 8:04:42 PM , Rating: 2
I want a fanless or barely audible CPU ;) (this coupled with a pico PSU) Funny thing is my current HTPC is very similar to yours heh.


RE: Getting dubious
By kilkennycat on 2/12/2009 8:14:12 PM , Rating: 2
Zotac is reputedly coming out with a Mini-ITX MCP7A/9300-based motherboard that might suit you.

see:-

http://techreport.com/discussions.x/14871


RE: Getting dubious
By mindless1 on 2/15/2009 2:03:11 PM , Rating: 2
Almost any CPU can be barely audible, merely put a good heatsink on with a low speed fan. Typically the noise factor is one of total system heat, whether that requires a fan on the chassis intake or exhaust, but these too can be practically inaudible if low enough in speed. 800 RPM fan keeps a system much cooler than no fan.


RE: Getting dubious
By Jansen (blog) on 2/12/2009 11:32:17 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Congrats though, on Nvidia being able to get articles on Ion out each and every week, considering that "Netbooks using the Ion platform are expected to be available in the summer."


That's why I tried to balance it out with the Pineview info, add a little something more to the article.


Price
By AvidDailyTechie on 2/12/2009 9:36:46 AM , Rating: 2
Looks very interesting.

Anyone know what these will probably cost?




RE: Price
By whirabomber on 2/12/2009 9:41:40 AM , Rating: 4
I think it will be a $50-100 premium (depending on what source you read). However the article doesn't mention that Intel won't unbundle the atom with their chipset for netbook use so that currently leaves just the micro desktop market. Still a sweet chipset until intel unbundles their head from an aft portion of themselves.


By Bateluer on 2/12/2009 9:29:40 AM , Rating: 4
The performance will be much better and the power/size will likely be identical.




my rant
By vapore0n on 2/12/09, Rating: -1
RE: my rant
By spread on 2/12/2009 10:51:53 AM , Rating: 2
Aero is Vista. Its one of the major components.

WHQL certification, while it may still result in some buggy drivers getting through, the worst offenders do not. Its still a good filter and forces companies to make at least a decent driver.


RE: my rant
By King of Heroes on 2/15/2009 12:07:39 AM , Rating: 2
Vista Home Basic lacks Aero. Vista Home Basic is not Vista then?

I believe that's the same retarded argument the prosecution is shoveling in the "Vista Capable" lawsuit.


RE: my rant
By omnicronx on 2/12/2009 11:23:00 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
and WHQL doesnt mean anything, as Ive used certified drivers that cause more crashes than non certified.

Signed WHQL drivers != Windows certified.

Any Manufactuer can sign their own drivers, they just cannot market it as 'Certified for Windows'

If you want a product that has been tested by Microsoft on various hardware (or at least the test results looked over by MS), you need to look for the 'Certified for Windows' logo.


RE: my rant
By TomZ on 2/12/2009 12:46:11 PM , Rating: 3
No offense, but most of what you said is wrong.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WHQL_Testing


RE: my rant
By omnicronx on 2/12/2009 2:27:03 PM , Rating: 2
Ooops, meant to say 'signed driver != Certified' (WHQL is the testing process to become certified, so obviously WHQL must mean "Certified for Windows" )

You were kind of harsh about it though Tomz ;)
Many people think a driver that is signed means that it is certified, which is just not the case. This was the point I was trying to get across here
quote:
However, a company can choose to sign their own drivers rather than go through the WHQL testing process. These drivers would not qualify for the "Certified for Windows" logos, but they would install on 64 bit versions of Vista and install without a warning message on 32 bit versions of Vista and XP. [1]
P.S Better watch out Tomz! I'm going to be trolling your posts now looking for mistakes.. jk ;)


RE: my rant
By TomZ on 2/12/2009 2:33:14 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry, you're right - I was a bit harsh. :o)


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