When the NVIDIA Ion high-definition integrated graphics platform was announced last year, the instant question which came to most was -- "When will this be appearing in netbooks?"
That question appears to have finally been answered, with the unveiling of the IdeaPad S12 by Lenovo. The new netbook will become the first to use the new graphics chipset.
The portable computer combines Intel's Atom processor with NVIDIA's 9400m graphics unit, the heart of the Ion platform. This results in a machine capable of offering silky 1080p video decoding with h.264 playback acceleration, Blu-ray playback, and moderate gaming capabilities -- all in a netbook package.
The 12-inch notebook is a larger sibling to the successful S9 and S10 IdeaPads. The Ion comes as a $50 premium option. The notebook is otherwise almost unchanged in design from its predecessors, except for the screen size and screen resolution, which has been bumped to 1280x800. The system comes with 1GB of RAM, 160GB HDD, a 4-in-one card reader, a 3-cell battery (upgradeable to 6) and an ExpressCard slot for 3G expandability. It runs on Windows XP.
One minor gripe with the computer is that the 1080p capabilities of the Ion will likely go to waste, for lack of a screen with sufficient resolution. You have to hook up an external monitor via the HDMI port to get 1080p.
The S12 will first launch in July, priced at $449. However, customers who want the Ion model will have to wait until an unannounced "late summer" launch, and will pay $499. Expect battery life to significantly be decreased by such graphically intensive uses, though.
Other than the S12, Ion has only found its way into a few Taiwanese HTPC motherboards and the Acer Revo nettop (bigger and pricier than a netbook).