NVIDIA has unveiled a new netbook platform that combines an NVIDIA GeForce 9400M GPU with an Intel Atom CPU to dramatically boost graphics performance on low power machines like netbooks and nettops. We first heard that NVIDIA was working on something like this a week and a half ago, and now the company says machines built around the platform could be ready to ship in the first half of 2009.

The NVIDIA ION platform will replace the integrated Intel GMA 950 graphics chip used on today’s Intel Atom processors with the NVIDIA GPU, which could boost performance as much as 1000%. That will go a long way toward making netbooks work better as tiny gaming rigs. It will also support all the visual eye candy that comes with Windows Vista and Windows 7. And NVIDIA says the GeForce 9400M chip won’t drain your battery any faster than the Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics.

But the NVIDIA chips will cost a bit more than the current generation Atom processors, which means ION-based netbooks could cost around $50 more than machines with Intel Atom N270 processors. While $50 might not seem like a much, it’s a lot of money when you’re talking about a $400 computer. While I certainly hope that we see ION powered netbooks hit the shelves as soon as possible, I also hope that manufacturers who adopt the platform offer customers a choice between a machine with an ION chipset and one with a cheaper Atom-only chipset.

Laptop Magazine has a Q&A with NVIDIA Product Manager Dave Ragones, who explains that the ION platform could be used in larger machines as well as netbooks. In other words, the lines between netbooks and notebooks are continuing to blur, which is something that laptop makers like Dell, HP, and Lenovo can’t be happy about. Right now there’s some concern that mini-laptop sales might be eating into the sales of larger laptops. But since netbooks tend to have slower processors, less GPU power, and lower resolution displays, they’re no replacement for a full sized laptop for most people. But will that change when you can play Call of Duty 4 at 30 frames per second on a netbook?

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10 replies on “NVIDIA unveils ION graphics platform for netbooks”

  1. I like the thought of a better graphics option than the crappy Intel GMS on any netbook or low end notebook, but you won’t be able to play COD4 on it no matter what. Nothing less than 2GHz+ dual core with a decent graphics chip with work from what I’ve seen and tried. But at least with Nvidia you can probably watch Hi Def on one of these things and even do everything you should be able to do on the web with a “netbook”.

  2. Ok, does this mean we’ll finally get 10 inch screens with >1024×600 resolution? Come on, my money is on the table, please take it!

    1. Nope, or should I say don’t count on it. I’m sure it means we just get Netbooks and small internet devices that can play back Blu-Ray and can calculate the complex gemomry of Half-Life 2. Then again a three year old PSP likley has 3x more 3D rendereding capablities then a current Netbook, so this wasn’t too much to ask.

      I won’t say too little too late, but rather just enough just in time. i just bought a Samsung, but I’m not sad because I’d rather have a Netbook now and be prepaired for my next purchase in 2010.

  3. Nvidia’ in this summer was talking about something called Terga with was tiny and powerful…and had very small power cosumption. It was going to be some sort of all-in-one processor that combines a GPU, media processor, memory, and a CPU on a itty-bitty chip. The interesting part was it was suppoed to offer like 10x the power effiency so it could be used on micro devices.

    So is this Tegra tech? Or is Tegra still off in the distance? It seems like this is an olive bracnh to Intel since it is Atom w/ Nvidia stuff and not a whole new chip. But the interesting question is why did Nvidia not go for the throat agaist Intel? Could it be that Atom’s sucess was somthing Nvidia saw as a way to insure most Netbooks might have their ION chip in the next year. i.e. Why fight sucess when you can join a brand that is working with OEMs and in the marketplace.

    Circles within circles…


    To be honest I was hoping for a more efficient version of the Intel Chipset ()as it’s fairly adequate aside from the power consumption) but at least this is a huge step in the right direction.

    More Tea Vicar?

  5. Looks like the HP Mini note 2133…HP planning on Nvidia chipsets/graphics?

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