Muscle for Netbooks: Nvidia's New Ion

Netbooks aren't known as performance machines, yet Nvidia second generation Ion claims to change that.

Nvidia has announced the release of the second generation of Ion, its graphics platform for Intel Atom processor-equipped netbooks and nettops. While Intel has designs on bringing Atom to multiple form factors, the new Ion is aimed squarely at the netbook market, with promises of providing the level of graphics performance usually found in a notebook.

Netbooks aren't really sold as performance machines, of course, and customers have come to accept them as lower-powered mobile devices. Nvidia (NASDAQ: NVDA), however, is promoting the new Ion as capable of running everything from high-definition YouTube videos to the game World of Warcraft.

"If you want a netbook with the horsepower to play HD video and PC games, your only choice is Ion. The new Ion netbooks deliver an unbeatable combination of performance and battery life," Drew Henry, general manager of GeForce and Ion GPUs at Nvidia, said in a statement.

Ion continues to pair an Nvidia 9400M GPU -- found in the Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) MacBook and other PC notebooks -- with an Atom processor, in this case Intel's new "Pine Trail" revision. But Nvidia has reworked the design. Instead of using the Northbridge to connect to the CPU as in Ion's first release, the GPU now talks to the CPU through a PCI Express bus, which is much faster. The GPU also has its own high-speed frame buffer memory.

The result of this rearchitecting is a tenfold improvement in performance with largely the same hardware, Nvidia said.

Read the rest at Hardware Central.




Tags: netbooks, netbook, nVidia, Ion, netbook reviews


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