Netbook graphics are inherently weak, especially with Intel's much-derided integrated graphics. But the new Nvidia Ion—like its predecessor—lets even a wimpy netbook Hulk out to play DX10 games and 1080p videos. The difference? It's a discrete graphics chip.
The original Ion was an integrated chipset (a spin on the GeForce 9400M inside of unibody MacBooks), but since Nvidia can no longer make chipsets for Intel's latest chips, the new, souped-up Ion is a separate graphics chip that connects via PCI Express and uses Nvidia's Optimus technology to automagically switch between Intel's integrated graphics and Ion, retaining your netbook's solid battery life. The claim is up to 10 hours (though that obviously depends on what tasks you're doing). Where Intel's GMA 3150 can't handle a benchmark like 3D Mark Vantage, the current generation Ion does so with aplomb. Twice as well, in fact, as the first Ion. It also offers 4x faster video enhancement and 7x faster video compression versus Intel's integrated solution. The difference now though is that we're talking about a discrete GPU beating an integrated one, whereas before it was more of an apples to apples (or at least integrated to integrated) comparison.
One thing to keep in mind: there are two Ions coming to the market, and the performance being quoted only applies to the 16-core iteration that'll appear in 12-inch netbooks and desktop all-in-ones. The new 8-core Ion, which will show up in 10-inch netbooks like the Acer Aspire One 532G, was actually outperformed by the first-generation Ion in a benchmark test from late February.
Still, there's no question that any Ion is a step up from the graphics your netbook currently offers, and while there haven't been many hardware announcements yet, there should be over 30 next-gen Ion designs—ranging from netbooks to all-in-ones to nettops—by this summer. You should expect the same $50 premium that you currently pay for an Ion netbook, but for all the added functionality it may well be worth it.
New NVIDIA ION Netbooks Deliver 10x Faster Graphics And Up To 10 Hours of Battery Life Thanks to Acclaimed NVIDIA Optimus Technology
Acer, ASUS and Lenovo Among Leading Vendors to Introduce Next-generation ION PCs
CEBIT-HANOVER, Germany-March 2, 2010-NVIDIA introduced the Next-generation NVIDIA® ION™ graphics processor today, which will supercharge netbooks with 10 times the graphics performance of standard netbooks1 and enable up to 10 hours of battery life2 thanks to NVIDIA® Optimus™ technology.
The new ION graphics processing unit (GPU) vastly outperforms basic netbook graphics by delivering rich HD media in games, movies, and Internet-based video. Unlike netbooks with Intel integrated graphics, ION netbooks have the power to play amazing HD video smoothly from sites like YouTube and support popular PC games like World of Warcraft.
The new ION netbooks also feature NVIDIA's highly acclaimed Optimus technology, which automatically selects the best graphics processor for running any given application – seamlessly routing the workload to either an NVIDIA discrete GPU or Intel integrated graphics. The result is great battery life and superior performance when you need it.
More than 30 products featuring the new ION GPU are expected to launch by this summer including netbooks, small form factor desktops, "barebones" systems, motherboards, and discrete add-in cards. The Acer Aspire One 532G (10-inch) and ASUS 1201PN (12-inch) are expected to be the first new ION netbooks to be introduced. New all-in-one PCs powered by next-generation ION will include the ASUS EeeTop 2010PNT and Lenovo C200. Channel partners including AOpen, AsRock, Asus, Foxconn, Giada, J&W, Jetway, Pegatron, POV, Shuttle, and Zotac also plan to introduce new ION-based products soon.
Facts about Next-generation NVIDIA ION graphics:
· It's a discrete GPU (graphics processing unit) with dedicated memory that attaches to an Intel Atom Pine Trail CPU via PCI Express.
· It supports streaming HD video on sites like YouTube HD, and smooth gaming performance on titles like World of Warcraft and Spore.
· ION netbooks feature NVIDIA Optimus technology, which automatically assigns processing chores to the NVIDIA ION GPU or integrated graphics. Optimus powers down the GPU for basic tasks like web surfing, further extending battery life. When more graphics horsepower is needed for playing 3D games, running videos, or using GPU compute applications, Optimus automatically enables the ION GPU.
· It will be available starting in April with the Acer Aspire One 532G netbook.
· It accelerates a growing list of media-rich applications including Muvee Reveal for making home movies, Badaboom for media conversion, Total Media Theater and PowerDVD 9 for watching HD video or instantly upscaling standard definition video to near-HD quality.