NVIDIA's Ion Platform: Performance Previewby Anand Lal Shimpi on February 3, 2009 9:01 AM EST
- Posted in
I measured power consumption of the Ion system while running my WinRAR test and honestly, it seemed pretty competitive:
|Idle Power||Load Power|
|NVIDIA Ion Reference (Atom 330)||20.5W||24.8W|
|ASUS Eee Box (Atom 230)||14.5W||19W|
|Intel Celeron 420 Desktop||58W||70W|
Under load the system drew around 25W. At idle we’re looking at 20.5W. The closest numbers I could compare to were my single-core ASUS Eee Box results. The Eee Box drew 6 fewer watts at idle and under load, but it also used a single-core Atom 230.
I’d guess that identical configurations would see a 2 - 4W difference in power. NVIDIA estimates that an Ion notebook would have a 12% lower battery life than a standard Atom/945G setup. That’s probably on the conservative end of estimates but we’ll have to see what manufacturers can do with this platform once it’s out.
It’d be silly to dislike Ion. Compared to the Atom/945G combo Ion is faster, you can play 3D games on it and you can actually watch Blu-ray movies on it. If the price is right, I’d rather have an Atom CPU paired with the GeForce 9400M than Intel’s 945G. It just makes sense.
Ion addresses one of Atom’s primary deficiencies - poor graphics performance. It can’t, however, make Atom something it’s not. It’s faster to use Photoshop on Ion than on any of the current Atom platforms, but I still don’t want to. It’s better to play games on the Ion than on a regular Atom system, but it’s not fun to. NVIDIA does get points for making the overall usage experience better and faster on Ion thanks to more memory bandwidth and a much better GPU. But then there's the issue of the rest of the hardware in the system.
NVIDIA had an Acer Aspire One setup at the CES Ion demo last month; it took over two minutes to launch Spore on that machine. Ion wasn’t going to make that any faster. The HDD Acer chose for that machine was just awful. Ion or not, OEMs are still going to be putting slow components in netbooks, limiting their usefulness. Ion is luckily versatile enough to be used in other types of systems, but without knowing what the OEMs have planned I can only speculate as to what is coming down the pipe.
The GeForce 9400M is a far better chipset than Intel’s 945G. It should be, since it’s a good four years newer. But I do wonder if we’ve taken things a little too far here. I wonder if Ion actually has too much GPU and not enough CPU? Don’t get me wrong, I like Ion; I’d like to have it over a standard 945G platform. I’m just not sure what I’d do with it. Sure it'd be faster than current Atom platforms. But the applications in which it's most noticeable, I'm not sure I'd actually use a netbook for. As a portable HTPC or other small form factor machine, perhaps. I'm very curious to see what OEMs do with this system. It sure would make for a great Apple TV.