Ever since NVIDIA said they wanted to boost netbook performance, quite a few people have been eagerly anticipating the results of that endeavor.
This week, we’ve started to get a glimpse of what’s to come when NVIDIA pairs up their GeForce 9400M GPU chipset with Intel’s Atom CPU. Quite a few websites and publications have been allowed to release their impressions and previews of an NVIDIA Ion reference PC platform. While it’s not in a netbook form factor at this point, it does provide a good starting point as several of the sites have taken them apart and you can see just how small they are. While the systems had dual-core Intel Atom 330 CPUs, they restricted them to one core (basically like an Atom 230 running at 1.6GHz) so you can get an idea of netbook performance.
PC Perspective also did a comparison to an ASUS Eee PC 901, and the 3DMark scores of the Ion were well over 10 times faster. LAPTOP Magazine mentioned it also blew away all other ultraportables in that range, except for the ASUS N10Jc (which is running a GeForce 9300M graphics chipset).
Among the features of the platform
- NVIDIA PureVideo HD, (HD Video playback)
- DirectX 10 support
- 7.1 Channel HD Audio
- 1,333 MHz Frontside Bus (FSB)
- 800MHz DDR2 or 1,333MHz DDR3
- TDP – 5-10W less than Intel 945/950 chipset
The DirectX 10 support is going to be a major factor in keeping the performance of these up-to-date with some applications (and games), while several of the websites reported full 1080p playback without any problems, but neither of those features is going to allow your netbook to play the latest and greatest games – the CPU is simply not made for that. With the Ion, we should get an increase in battery life, or at the very least, battery life stays the same with current the current Intel 945GM Express chipset (but with the performance boost of the Ion).
As far as seeing the Ion in any netbooks or laptops anytime soon – chances are it won’t be until June or July at the earliest. This should change how people see these ultraportable devices – perhaps the term “netbook” will be dropped, with something more encompassing in its place.