NVIDIA’s new ION platform offers high(er) performance graphics for netbooks and nettops with low power processors. We’ve already seen a number of 10 and 12 inch laptops and a few desktop PCs that will come preloaded with next generation ION graphics. But for the first time, NVIDIA has also gone ahead and given hardware makers the ability to sell standalone PCI Express cards with NVIDIA ION graphics. And Zotac is the first company to take NVIDIA up on that offer.
The Zotac ION upgrade kit comes with a small form factor motherboard and a Zotac ION graphics card with 512MB of DDr3 memory, 16 shaders, and DirectX 10.1 support.
The video card features hardware acceleration for MP4, DivX, AVC, and H.264 video as well as Adobe Flash Player 10.1 beta. It also includes an HDMI output for connecting an external display.
The PC card features NVIDIA CUDA, which means you also get hardware acceleration for some image and video processing software, allowing you to do things like edit or transcode videos much faster than you would normally be able to do on a machine with an Intel Atom or similarly low power chipset.
There’s no word on pricing or availability yet.
I know a lot of you are waiting for a drop-in solution for existing netbooks. I wouldn’t hold my breath. While NVIDIA says it’s physically possible for one of their hardware partners to design a mini-PCIe card that you can throw in a netbook much the same way you can a Broadcom Crystal HD video accelerator, the company isn’t officially supporting that kind of use. Instead it’s working with PC makers to release netbooks with ION graphics preloaded, and offering a platform for making desktop graphics cards like Zotac’s.
Theoretically there’s no reason you have to use this video card with an Intel Atom processor. It should work just fine with a higher performance processor — but there are plenty of desktop graphics cards that will work just as well.