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With ION, Nvidia Covers the Mobile Market

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I just got back from Nvidia’s (s NVDA) Austin office, where I saw a demo PC running the ION platform that marries a GeForce 9400 GPU with the more powerful of the Intel (s INTC) Atom processors. ION seemed like a sweet deal when Nvidia launched it in December, and seems even better now that I know it doesn’t add much to the price of the netbook (only $20-$40), according to Brian Burke, the Nvidia spokesman interviewed below. With such a small difference in cost, why wouldn’t you try to get a full-featured PC in a tiny form factor? There is the issue of battery life. I’m not sure how a GPU that can suck 14 watts at full power can lead to the “comparable” battery life on a netbook that Nvidia’s engineers claim, but I’m willing to wait until summer to see it in person, when designs featuring ION are due to appear. With ION, Nvidia is playing both sides of the mobile computing split. It has a platform for Intel’s x86 architecture in ION, and something for the ARM (s armh) crowd with its (super low-power) Tegra platform designed for handsets and mobile Internet devices. Now we just have to wait and see if device makers buy into either.

11 Responses to “With ION, Nvidia Covers the Mobile Market”

  1. Jesse Kopelman

    @Mike and ssm

    The thing you guys are missing is that the Ion platform idles around the same as Intel’s 945GS. The only time Ion will draw more power than the current Intel platform is when you actually use it is for 3D acceleration (the HD video acceleration only uses a Watt or two). So, if you never use 3D acceleration (ie play video games) the Ion-based system will have exactly the battery life you are used to and still have better performance for playing video (even flash-based stuff). For most users, you are getting a zero impact to battery life upgrade from a circa 2004 GPU to a circa 2008 one. The only trade off is system price.

  2. Agree with the first comment (from Mike)

    Why do i need graphics performance that can play a 1080p video on my netbook ?
    One more hour of battery life is far far more useful than the ability to play some eye candy

  3. I’d be very interested if this showed up in a low cost (sub $300) PC that could be used as a media center, hidden behind the LCD TV in the living room. Asus is working on something similar, EEE b204/206 that has HDMI and an ATI graphics card. Not sure of the cost yet.

  4. I think it’s a good evolution:some people need more performant netbooks (gamers,graphic and music appz,etc…) on location.And the current netbooks are returned massively because they can’t be used to watch a simple mp4 or divx movie….

  5. Mike Cerm

    I don’t know Nvidia is up to. My Acer Aspire One idles at 14W, and maxes out at 20W. I’ve heard that the Intel chipset is not very efficient, but even if you improve the chipset, there’s still no way that a 14W GPU is not going to significantly impact battery-life.

    If that power were actually useful for something, maybe it would be worth the hit in battery-life, but netbooks don’t have screens that are capable of displaying 1080P video. There’s just no need for a GPU with that much processing power.

    It seems like they’re more interested in shoe-horning the 9400M into a platform where it doesn’t belong, than with how to build the most efficient platform. I’d like to see Nvidia (and ATI) get in on the netbook action, but not like this. They should start with a power goal, like a more-realistic 8W, and see how to get the best possible performance. Something that’s 5 times as powerful as Intel’s 950, but also uses 5 times the juice is just not worth it in a netbook. A net-top, perhaps, but not a netbook.