NVIDIA’s ION platform combines an Atom processor with NVIDIA GeForce graphics. The result is a computer platform that gives you notebooks and desktops with low power processors and the ability to handle 1080p HD video playback, Blu-Ray decoding, and a fair amount of 3D graphics processing for modern video games.
You also get CUDA support, which means that some GPU-accelerated applications, such as media transcoding utility MediaCoder can perform much more quickly on low power machines than they would if they relied solely on the CPU.
You know what Intel calls that? Overkill.
In an interview with Laptop Magazine, Intel netbook marketing director Anil Nanduri said that there are better ways to add HD video playback to a netbook, including the Broadcom Crystal HD media accelerator, which is cheaper than ION, but which doesn’t offer all the same functionality.
He does have a bit of a point. ION does add to the cost of a notebook. And while a typical netbook with integrated graphics can’t handle 1080p video playback, most can deal with 720p video and some older, and even recent video games.
But overkill? Really? There are definitely plenty of people looking to push the limits of what a netbook can do with higher resolution displays, faster graphics, touchscreens, and other features.
But it’s pretty clear that Intel wants you to buy a more expensive computer with a pricier chipset to perform those tasks. That’s probably why there’s no support for H.264 video acceleration in the recently announced Intel Atom Pine Trail platform, which means that HD and high quality Flash video is going to be a no-go on computers with next-generation Atom chips unless they have a dedicated graphics chip. Like the ones that Broadcom and NVIDIA are offering.
You might wonder why anyone would need to watch HD video on a device with a 1024 x 600 pixel display, but more and more video content is being delivered in high definition. The ability to watch it without transcoding it to a lower resolution first is key. And while much Flash video is available online in both HD and standard definition formats, that might not always be the case.
What do you think? Is the NVIDIA ION platform overkill? Is it a must-have feature for you? Or is it a nice option to have, and one that you hope Intel doesn’t squash with its recent move to combine the CPU and graphics processor onto a single chip?
Update: Bezinga’s NJ Beachum puts it best, when he says “It is almost as if Intel is saying, ‘How dare people use a netbook like it’s an actual computer, for multimedia, music, word processing, video games, and other purposes? We will not have it!'”