NVIDIA Ion at CES 2009

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.

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5 replies on “NVIDIA Ion prototype reviewed”

  1. The key issue based on the PC Perspective Review:


    is that the power utilization of the Ion platform was basically double that of the netbook in question. Which is BAD for its future as a netbook platform. The problem is of course that (a) the netbook in question had an LCD display drawing power, and (b) the Ion platform used the dual core 330 which draws more power. And of course the netbook was running XP (not as good at power management, which might have mattered for the idle power measurements).

    It seems like they could have tried to mitigate these issues–disable the 2nd CPU in Vista, turn the display brightness down or even off, run the same OS, use a netbook with 2GB of RAM and a similar hard disk, etc. But they didn’t.

  2. Gah! This is the only thing preventing my from buying a netbook now. I’d literally be ordering a Samsung NC10 today if I didn’t worry that someone will release a decent netbook with a discrete GPU in the next few months. (I played with the Asus N10 today and I definitely don’t class it as a netbook).

  3. The story here is not netbooks, but desktop PCs. In 2009, companies like Acer, MSI and Asus will create a panic in the boardrooms of computer makers that have bet their financial survival on selling $750 desktop PCs. “Net-top” PCs based on the Atom N3xx dual core chip and NVIDIA Ion will prove to be more than enough computer for most people’s needs.

  4. Wow, ONLY 25W while watching a movie.
    Hmm…with the cpu only 4W….this nvidia chipset is absurd and obscene.
    What the hell are they doing?

  5. Wow, ONLY 25W while watching a movie.
    Hmm…with the cpu only 4W….this nvidia chipset is absurd and obscene.
    What the hell are they doing?

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