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NVIDIA Ion Platform Board  (Source: NVIDIA)

NVIDIA Ion SFF Reference Design  (Source: NVIDIA)
Ion will take netbooks to the next level of Performance

The netbook is driving the PC industry right now -- the little systems are characterized by lightweight, small screens, low purchase price, and low performance for the most part.

NVIDIA has announced a new platform called Ion that should add significantly to the performance of netbooks, small form factor PCs, and all-in-one PCs. The key to Ion is that the platform combines an Intel Atom CPU with a NVIDIA GeForce 9400 GPU. The combination will allow netbooks running the Ion platform to play rich full 1080p HD media and even video games that the traditional netbook couldn't handle.

NVIDIA claims that Ion provides the smallest premium PC experience available today. Big green says that the addition of a 9400 GPU with the Atom CPU in the Ion platform provides a ten times improvement in graphics performance compared to the typical netbook.

Ion fully supports Windows Vista and the upcoming Windows 7 platform. One of the most important facts about Ion is that it is able to integrate the Atom CPU and the 9400 GPU in about half the space of today's current Atom CPU platforms. That should mean netbook users have enough room to add RAM to make a viable Vista netbook.

NVIDIA also says that the additional drain on battery life adding the 9400 GPU is minimal. If designers opt to not increase RAM capacity the smaller size should allow for netbooks with an even lighter and thinner form factor.

NVIDIA's Drew Henry, GM of the MCP business unit said in a statement, "Until now, a high definition affordable PC was an oxymoron. The Ion Platform pairs the GeForce 9400 with a truly great Intel Atom CPU and lets consumers surf the Internet, play top games, edit photos, and watch videos all in high definition. This will really energize the PC market in 2009!"

It is safe to expect to see netbooks using the Ion platform tipping up at CES 2009 in a few weeks. Those planning to buy a netbook may want to wait until ion-based machines are available.

NVIDIA released the 9400 GPU in October. The GPU features 16 cores that are CUDA capable and the GPU takes up half the space of previous integrated GPUs. Shortly after the launch of the 9400 GPU, NVIDIA boasted that it would take the firm to a 30% market share in notebook graphics. With the strength of the netbook market right now, Ion is likely the key to NVIDIA making good on that claim. The 9400M GPU is what NVIDIA leveraged to oust Intel as the graphics provider in the new MacBook systems.

If you doubt the Ion platforms gaming chops NVIDIA claims it will play Call of Duty 4, which we have seen done on a netbook before. Spore executive producer Lucy Bradshaw said in a statement, "Spore looks and runs great with netbook and nettop PCs featuring GeForce GPUs and Atom CPUs. Gamers will be impressed with the Ion platform's power and portability."

Certainly, the games will run at lower detail settings, but at least you will be able to play games. Exactly how much the Ion platform will add to the cost of a netbook is unknown at this time.



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RE: Dual Core Atom?
By therealnickdanger on 12/18/2008 3:10:39 PM , Rating: 5
My MSI Wind can play 1080p videos (single-core Atom 1.6GHz with 945 chipset). But that comes with a maxed processing penalty. The 9400 can do the same task blindfolded with both hands tied behind its back.

We can only hope that future netbooks comes with 1280x800 screens instead of 1024x600. PLEASE!

Looking beyond netbooks, just building a Roku-box-sized HTPC is enticing. Ion + 1x2GB DDR3 + 802.11n + SSD + USB ATSC Tuner + slim Blu-Ray drive = fully-functional portable HTPC. Expensive, yes, but potent and small! We already know that the 9400 outputs 8-channel PCM and 1080p24 about perfectly, so it's a dream come true!


RE: Dual Core Atom?
By Quiescent on 12/18/2008 3:18:38 PM , Rating: 3
Yeah, and that 100% CPU taxing takes a big chunk out of your battery life if you're not careful. At least it does that to my EeePC 4G Surf. :P


RE: Dual Core Atom?
By therealnickdanger on 12/18/2008 3:25:35 PM , Rating: 3
Yeah, the stock battery only lasts about 1.5 hours during normal use (not 1080p video). Meh, I've owned several laptops, but I rarely operate them without being plugged into a wall. I actually feel really uncomfortable when I'm not plugged into an outlet.


RE: Dual Core Atom?
By Quiescent on 12/18/2008 3:36:30 PM , Rating: 1
Yeah, I have mine plugged into a wall too. I've had it for almost a year now (Will be a year on the 24th). So the advertised 2 hour battery life I used to get is actually more like... Not even an hour now, lol. I wanted to get a Mugen 7800mAh battery, but by the time I can even afford one of those, I don't think they will be selling. So yeah, I love this economy!


RE: Dual Core Atom?
By MikeMurphy on 12/18/2008 4:26:52 PM , Rating: 2
For a more in-depth review, click here: http://www.anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=3478

From the XBMC boards dual core atom owners are telling me that all tested 720p files run fine from the atom without GPU acceleration.

Personally, I would buy this in a heartbeat.

* Offers enough HTPC functionality through HDMI
* Offers ample gaming ability for OLDER games
* Battery life to be similar to i945 chipset
* Price to be about the same

Now all we need is better netbook screens.


RE: Dual Core Atom?
By Quiescent on 12/18/2008 3:39:03 PM , Rating: 2
And it can play HD videos (The bleach episodes I download are in HD format, I believe) however, the problem is that I can't play them at 800x600 resolution, I have to go back down to nasty 800x480 resolution. And even then, it's still a bit taxing on performance on everything else.


RE: Dual Core Atom?
By masher2 (blog) on 12/18/2008 4:52:33 PM , Rating: 2
From the article:
quote:
NVIDIA also says that the additional drain on battery life adding the 9400 GPU is minimal...
Personally, I don't want my Netbook to play COD4, I want it to have 4-5 hours of battery life under constant use.


RE: Dual Core Atom?
By Quiescent on 12/18/2008 5:33:07 PM , Rating: 2
As long as the netbooks to incorporate this don't make the prices of the netbooks skyrocket, I would take one if I could afford one.

I feel sad that the EeePC 900 with a 8.9 inch screen, atom proc, 20GB (16+4GB) SSD with linux costs just as much as my EeePC 4G Surf did a year ago. However, then I think about how my boyfriend got it for me for christmas and how I've used it so much when my desktop has suffered so much through dirty power sources and then how I got it and paid more attention to it for a day and my boyfriend gave it jealous bite marks for me paying more attention to it more than him... When I think of all the usefulness it has and the sentimental value of it for me, I still can't even think to replace it with something better.


RE: Dual Core Atom?
By quiksilvr on 12/18/2008 8:35:30 PM , Rating: 2
Personally I feel that netbooks should be no smaller than an 11" laptop. A 10" laptop is dimensioned at 10"x7"x1" and an 11" laptop is dimensioned at 11"x8"x1". This also allows room for a removable optical drive, something I feel should be implemented.


RE: Dual Core Atom?
By Quiescent on 12/19/2008 12:20:04 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah! Well, you're not tiny like me! I was happy to finally get a laptop that is PERFECT for my size! Lots of bigger laptops are too heavy, big, and awkward for me. The EeePC 4G Surf actually fits on my lap perfectly, and doesn't even go over the sides.


RE: Dual Core Atom?
By wordsworm on 12/19/2008 3:08:44 PM , Rating: 3
Before EeePC900:
Power goes out.
Boyfriend: hey, there's nothing to do.
Girlfriend: Hmmm... I have an idea....
an hour later, one happy boyfriend.

After EeePC900:
Power goes out.
Boyfriend: Hey, the power's out!
Girlfriend: No problem, I still have the Internet.
an hour later, boyfriend hatches a devious demise for the Eee.


RE: Dual Core Atom?
By masher2 (blog) on 12/18/2008 11:12:10 PM , Rating: 2
> "We can only hope that future netbooks comes with 1280x800 screens instead of 1024x600. PLEASE!"

Several already do. HP's 2133 for one. Dell's Mini 12 also-- though that's borderline large for a Netbook in my opinion.


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