NVIDIA’s new Ion platform pairs an NVIDIA GeForce 9400 GPU with an Intel Atom processor to offer a dramatic boost in graphics performance over the integrated graphics that Intel offers in its chipset. The Intel Atom processor is a popular choice among netbook makers, and while no mini-laptops offer the Ion platform as an alternative yet, we could eventually see low power netbooks with enough graphics processing power to handle the latest video games or 1080p video playback.
The folks at Laptop Magazine got their hands on a prototype PC based on the Ion platform and they’ve published a detailed review. Keep in mind, this is a prototype box built by NVIDIA and will likely never come to market in its current form. It’s also worth noting that the box uses the Intel Atom 230 CPU, which is the desktop version of the Intel Atom N270 which is used in netbooks and laptops. The two chips should offer similar performance, but we won’t know what impact the NVIDIA Ion platform really has on netbooks until we see it show up in one.
The reference design ran Windows Vista Enterprise, had 2GB of RAM, and a 200GB, 7200 RPM hard drive. The operating system booted in about 72 seconds, but I would expect Windows XP to boot faster. I also wouldn’t expect the GPU to make much difference in boot times.
Where the Ion really shines is in graphics and video performance. The test machine scored high marks in benchmarking tests and was able to handle some video gaming chores on 3D titles like F.E.A.R., although it couldn’t really handle Far Cry 2. For mroe details about frame rates and video resolutions, check out the full review at Laptop Magazine’s web site.