NVIDIA brings back the ION, touting a tag line of “10X Performance and 10 Hours of Battery Life.”
“An ION is an energized Atom” is what NVIDIA’s CEO, Mr. Jes Hsun mentioned in our interview with him a couple of months back. When NVIDIA released the original ION chipset for the Atom, it suddenly became this incredibly cheap platform that was capable of doing a lot more than surfing Web 1.0- especially if you’re a fan of HTPCs connected to your big screen TV. Devices like the Acer Revo or the Zotac MAG could fit on the back of your TV and deliver 1080p content without much of an issue. Now, about a year later, NVIDIA is back with a follow up to the original ION- with a tag line of “10X Performance and 10 Hours of Battery Life.”
Lets start by taking a look at the block diagram of the original ION and the new ION.
As you can see, the new ION now works in conjunction with a chipset instead of replacing it. No longer will the ION be handling everything as Intel has already announced that the new Atom D410, N450 and D510 CPUs will have a built-in graphics and memory controller. The NextGen ION now features a dedicated Frame Buffer or graphics memory up to 512MB DDR3 so it wont be b be borrowing anything from your system memory. It will also handle all the output such as HDMI, VGA, DVI and Display Port on a desktop/nettop On a netbook, NVIDIA’s Optimus technology will automatically take over the integrated CPU graphics when needed such as when playing back a 1080p movie or a DX10 application
For the netbook, the ION2 will come in two configurations- NVIDIA recommends the 8 CUDA Core version for any netbook that is 10″ or under in size or the 16 Core version for anything bigger as well as desktops. Both these versions are DX10 capable and will continue to outperform Intel’s integrated solution by leaps and bounds as shown by NVIDIA in the graph below.
While I don’t doubt these graphs, I’ll leave my opinion for when I receive a test sample of a Next Gen ION platform. NVIDIA also claims a battery life of unto 10 hours- again, something I would like to verify since Intel advertises the same for their Pinetrail platform add the new ION builds upon it using a few extra components which would potentially suck additional power.
Being an avid HTPC user, what I’m most pessimistic about is what would this new ION bring to the table. I already have an ASRock ION 330 system with the first generation of ION running 1080p flawlessly under XMBC. I also have Skype and uTorrent running in the background on this machine and other than the slightly sluggish interface in XBMC when using a skin like Aeon or Xpreience, I really don’t see any issues or need to upgrade.
The good thing is that I wont have to wait very long to test this Next Gen platform as, unlike the original ION which took a while to show up, NVIDIA already has a healthy line up for this new version. Acer has already announced their Aspire One 532G while we saw Shuttle’s X35 leak out a couple of days back as well. Here are some more upcoming products utilizing the next generation ION. Enjoy.