Introducing NVIDIA’s Ion Platform

The combination of two is called the Ion platform and the reference design fits into a pico-ITX form factor:

A Pico-ITX motherboard measures 10 cm x 7.2 cm (3.94” x 2.83”), by comparison a standard ATX motherboard measures 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm (12” x 9.6”). If you’re bad at visualizing dimensions, perhaps this picture will help:

An ATX motherboard (left) vs. a Pico ITX Ion board (right)

The reference motherboard is very simple; you’ve got an Intel Atom CPU and a GeForce 9400M next to each other, a single SATA connector and a DDR3 SO-DIMM slot on the other side of the board. And this little thing is powerful enough to play HD video (8 - 25Mbps H.264):

Click to Enlarge

That's 27% CPU utilization on an Intel Atom processor when playing back a 18Mbps 1080p H.264 scene

Note that this is the very same 9400M that’s in the new Apple notebooks, not a watered down version, the clocks, features and performance are the same (although presumably OEMs could choose to underclock the graphics core for particularly power/heat sensitive applications).

NVIDIA even built an ugly looking reference machine to show you what was possible with Ion:

It's the Ion reference design, OEMs will build prettier looking devices

That’s an entire PC, along with a 2.5” HDD, it ran Windows Vista just fine and had no problems playing HD video. It can even play games although we didn’t get a chance to see any run on it.

It's that small

Ion on top of a Mac mini

Ion vs. Mac mini once more

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.

NVIDIA wasn’t able to leave us with an Ion system to test before today’s announcement, but we have seen it operational - it works and it’s tiny. NVIDIA’s vision for Ion extends far beyond netbooks and cheap PCs, systems based on Ion could easily be powerful HTPC front ends connecting to networked storage.

Let me also point out that since this is the same 9400M chipset we’ve reviewed, Ion has full support for 8-channel LPCM over HDMI. That’s even more capable than most ATX HTPCs. If you tossed a 500GB 2.5” HDD in one of these things, you could carry your HTPC with you. That’s probably a silly usage model but it highlights the power and versatility of this platform. Ion is cool.

Index Final Words


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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:"> 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!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 :).">

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