Intel has been shipping its Atom processor for months now, although it has been talking about the CPU for much longer. Earlier this year I went through the architecture and unique design approach behind Intel’s first foray into a new approach to chip design since the original Centrino.

While Atom isn’t setting any performance records, it is amazingly powerful for its size and power consumption. In making Atom, Intel made sure to give it an equally impressive chipset: Poulsbo. The combination of Atom and Poulsbo unfortunately uses too much power and is too big to be used in the most attractive of devices: smart phones, relegating them to MIDs (Mobile Internet Devices). MIDs aren’t terribly successful, mostly because they are bulky, plagued by terrible UIs and too expensive for what they are. In a couple of years Atom will surely find its way into smart phones thanks to Intel’s push for integration, but thanks to the Netbook segment Atom hasn’t gone unappreciated.

Largely pioneered by the efforts of ASUS and obsession with the letter E, the Netbook market is almost entirely dominated by Intel’s Atom CPU. In order to keep costs down, Netbook manufacturers have paired Atom with a desktop chipset instead of Poulsbo: the Intel 945G. Since Atom’s FSB can work in GTL+ mode, it is compatible with Pentium 4/Core 2 chipsets.

Atom is honestly fast enough for many tasks, delivering the performance of a mainstream notebook from 4 years ago. The problem is that there are some applications that are commonplace today that can’t run on Atom. HD video playback isn’t possible on Atom + 945G platforms because the CPU isn’t fast enough to decode high bitrate video (much less H.264) and the chipset doesn’t support HD video decode acceleration. 

NVIDIA saw an opportunity with Atom. Intel had a very popular CPU, that could be used in many more environments if it could only be paired with a more powerful chipset. Enter the GeForce 9400M.

This is the same GeForce 9400M that’s used in desktops and notebooks, the very same GeForce 9400M that’s in the new MacBook, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air...and NVIDIA is pairing it up with Intel’s Atom processor.

Introducing NVIDIA’s Ion Platform
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  • plonk420 - Wednesday, December 17, 2008 - link

    if you need your DAC outside of an A/V amp solution, you can choose one of these: http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f46/all-dacs-money-c...">http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f46/all-dacs-money-c... Reply
  • fishbits - Wednesday, December 17, 2008 - link

    "NVIDIA claims that a netbook running with the Ion platform should have the same battery life as one running on the conventional Atom + 945G setup."

    Gimme! Seriously hope they can have some units with this for sale in the next three months, but doubt I'll get that lucky. Make the RAM 2GB while you're at it. Yum!
    Reply
  • therealnickdanger - Wednesday, December 17, 2008 - link

    But I just got the biggest e-rection ever. Nerdgasm alert! OK, so when can I buy one? Reply
  • teohhanhui - Thursday, December 18, 2008 - link

    It definitely is cool. Wonder if they will actually make such machines... Reply
  • gwolfman - Wednesday, December 17, 2008 - link

    With CUDA support as well to top that off. I'm liking this idea already! Reply
  • murphyslabrat - Wednesday, December 17, 2008 - link

    Lol, I saw the picture of the mobo, and read "NVidia Ion", and I liked it then....Though, I was expecting something with Via.

    I am hating the Atom, though. There's currently a netbook out, from Asus, with a GeForce 9300, and it performs miserably in games.
    Reply
  • Murloc - Wednesday, December 17, 2008 - link

    I can play gta san andreas on a pentium m 1,1ghz processor with integrated 3 years old intel graphics.

    This thing is cool, you can play games on your TV.

    For extreme gaming use the desktop.
    Reply
  • CurseTheSky - Wednesday, December 17, 2008 - link

    Netbooks aren't meant to game on. They're meant to be small, light, and have great battery life. Similarly, you wouldn't bring a Prius to the drag strip and expect a 12 second run.

    Even the 14.1" ASUS with a P8600 and 9650M GT that I'm typing on is barely satisfactory for newer games. If you want to game, shell out the $1300+ for a "gaming" laptop, or build a desktop.
    Reply
  • SirKronan - Thursday, December 18, 2008 - link

    Speaking of the Prius ... I have one that has a nice integrated LCD screen just begging for a car PC to be installed. I can't wait until these come out. I will integrate wi-fi, bluetooth, a PC based GPS unit, and a USB port right by my other dashboard buttons. Screw the bug, I'm going to make a REAL geekmobile.

    This is AMAZING. Imagine your HTPC build into your TV.
    Reply
  • Jedi2155 - Thursday, December 18, 2008 - link

    Well...its a Mac integration...but a comptuer nonetheless. So it is possible but you just gotta do a lot of your own work :).

    http://www.kusnetz.net/prius/">http://www.kusnetz.net/prius/
    Reply

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