NVIDIA Ion

NVIDIA

Latest updates:
April 2, 2009: NVIDIA Talks About the ION
Feb 26, 2009: NVIDIA to Intel on the Ion: Where’s Your HD Now?
Feb 24, 2009: Intel and NVIDIA Ion – It’s Looking Ugly
Feb 18, 2009: Lenovo to go With NVIDIA Ion, VIA, Launch 11″, 12″, and 13″ Netbooks?
Feb 11, 2009: NVIDIA Ion – Certified for Vista, Runs Windows 7

What is it?
NVIDIA’s Ion is an upcoming platform/solution that combines Intel’s Atom CPU with NVIDIA’s GeForce 9400M chipset (aka MCP79). It’s designed specifically for netbooks/nettops/ultraportables and other low-power system. There have been stories that Intel would not be selling the Atom as a separate unit, and therefore preventing a platform such as the Ion from being produced, however Intel has refuted those stories and has said they would sell the Atom as a stand-alone CPU.

The GeForce 9400M graphics chip(set) is available in some laptops/notebooks already, such as 13.3″ MacBook.

Ideally we will see it paired with a dual-core Intel Atom in the 10″ – 12″ range.

How does it improve upon Intel’s current 945GSE chipset and GM45/GMA 950 graphics chipset?
– NVIDIA claims up to 10x faster graphics/video decoding performance boost
– Offers DirectX 10 compatability
– Windows Vista (Aero) and Windows 7 capable
– Hardware/GPU acceleration for some tasks
– Capable of playing 1080p High-Definition video (HD)
– Depending on solution, could take up almost half the space that existing solutions take.
– Could potentially accelerate some features of Adobe Creative Suite 4
– Huge boost for gaming (Call of Duty 4 and Crysis have been used as demonstrations by NVIDIA and others)

Other Specifications:
– NVIDIA PureVideo HD, (HD Video playback, including 1080p)
– 1333MHz Front-side Bus (FSB)
– Similar battery/power consumption to existing Intel 945 solution.
– Up to 2560×1600 resolution
– Video out includes HDMI, DVI, or VGA
– 800MHz DDR2 or 1,333MHz DDR3 Memory
– Gigabit ethernet (10/100/1000)
– 7.1-channel audio
– Low Thermal Design Power (TDP) – 5-10W less than Intel 945/950 combination.
– Certified for Microsoft Windows Vista Premium.
– Has been thoroughly tested with Windows 7 betas (see this story for details).

Availability:
– Probably second half of 2009. Possibly end of 2Q 2009.
– NVIDIA (as of Feb 11, 2009) has indicated that a desktop/nettop version will be available in Spring of 2009.

What companies will use it:
– Acer has said they are probably going to do so sometime in the latter part of 2009.

What companies might use it?
– There are reports that Lenovo will have an NVIDIA Ion-based line.
– Asustek, Gigabyte, and Micro-Start International (MSI) indicated an interest in it in 2008 for nettops. Given how easy it would be to adapt to netbooks, and that all three are into netbooks (especially Asustek and MSI), it would make sense for at least two of those three to add the Ion to their ultraportable lineups, but their interest could also be purely economic based – adding the Ion to the pool of available chipsets for netbooks/ultraportables, would provide for some pricing competition between Intel, NVIDIA, and VIA.
– Given the previously-mentioned use of the 9400M graphics in the MacBook, one would think Apple would be a prime candidate. Based on the direction that Apple is headed with Mac OS X 10.6 “Snow Leopard” and its emphasis on multi-core chips, Apple could very well have a netbook in the works, and is waiting for dual-core Atoms. There has been talks that the Ion platform would also find its way into an updated Mac Mini.

Notes/Other Information:
– While the ideal solution is netbooks/nettops/ultraportables, NVIDIA won’t limit it to the 10″ and under crowd. It could make it’s way into 11″ and 12″ laptops/notebooks. NVIDIA believes it offers up to 5x the performance of existing Centrino-based systems
– Could be up to around $50 more than current Intel solutions. NVIDIA has indicated in interviews that they are targeting the $400 market. Well worth the cost.
– Keep in mind that this is not the system in the Asus N10J. The N10J has a GeForce 9300M video chipset and Ion is not implemented in the N10J.
– NVIDIA has indicated they would work with supporting VIA CPUs in the future.
– This does not compare to the “Tegra” platform, which is geared towards MIDs (Mobile Internet Devices)

Official Links:
Official NVIDIA.com website for the Ion
NVIDIA.com – Press Release

Other links:
– LAPTOP Magazine – Interview with NVIDIA about Ion and Netbooks
– LAPTOP Magazine – Best of CES 2009 – “Best Enabling Technolgy
– Techgage – Best of CES 2009

Rough timeline and other stories:
– Early December, 2008 – Ion information leaked
– December 17/18, 2008 – Official announcement from NVIDIA
– Early January, 2009 – NVIDIA Showed off Ion at CES 2009
– Late January, 2009 – NVIDIA Wants you to speak up about the Ion
– Early February, 2009 – Ion Benchmarks and hands-on previews from nettop preview device.