Power Consumption

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.

Final Words

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.

Keeping Atom in Perspective


View All Comments

  • Roy2001 - Tuesday, February 17, 2009 - link

    With single chip solution, it costs less than 945G. nVidia should chanrge less for Ion chip.

    Or it would have no chance, Intel is going to integrate chipset in CPU, it already did, but for MID now.
  • Roy2001 - Sunday, February 15, 2009 - link

    Only a few HTPC lover would buy it. Whoelse? Those who want to play games with Atom? No, you can barely play under 800x600 with lowest quality and barely 30fps. So, who will buy it? Reply
  • Aeridyne - Friday, February 13, 2009 - link

    I just had a great idea for one, would work just fine on the regular 945 systems too... plug in 2 usb controllers for a really mobile little machine to play roms on, mini arcade... i think i just gave myself a reason to buy one :) Reply
  • araczynski - Monday, February 9, 2009 - link

    what's the point of adding all that gpu decoding if it only works to be good 99% of the time? and still releasing it as a finished product?

    like putting sexy tires on a car and saying, every few days they'll go flat on you, but that's ok.

    oh, and try to keep your opinions of what looks ugly and what doesn't to yourself anand, your ego is getting up there with tom's and too many others. stick with the numbers and facts.
  • Penti - Wednesday, February 4, 2009 - link

    I don't feel to excited about the Atom any more. 9400M is overrated, mainly because of Apple, a Conroe-L would be so much better too. Atom will never cut it for multimedia. Even the AMD Neo is a bit weak but at least it's powerful enough for Vista Business. Atom is a nice chip for embedded computing but I don't care for it any where else. Netbooks is fun but I don't care much for XP Home or linpus/xandros (I would just install a distro my self) and Netbooks with hard drives or a bit bigger SSDs aren't cheap. So they don't feel like the right device for me. Reply
  • nubie - Wednesday, February 4, 2009 - link

    Is the Celeron 430 really a 1MB level 2 cache?

    I have two and they are most certainly 512mb cache.

    (I can't tell if you are using the mobile Celeron 430 or not.)

    Yet another reason the D201GLY2 motherboard should never have been killed.

    I would rather see a 2Ghz Core2 Solo and the 9400m paired up on a mini-itx board.

    Actually a Pentium Dual Core 2.2-2.4Ghz with 2 or 3 MB level 2 cache sounds perfect. And it may even be affordable if the 9300 Itx board comes out.

    The real problem is the case, we need better slimmer cases with heatpipe cooling (no moving parts). Lian Li needs to get on it and make a Mini-itx case.

    (I understand that this is smaller than mini-itx, but I don't care, mini-itx is a better standard for general purpose machines, the Ion project is for netbooks and appliances, not enthusiasts.)
  • sprockkets - Wednesday, February 4, 2009 - link

    There are fanless cases, you just need to know where to look.


    Gen ITX news: www.mini-ITX.com

  • nubie - Saturday, February 7, 2009 - link

    I have been building ITX systems for 6 years, I am well aware of the cases available.

    Re-read what I said:

    The real problem is the case, we need better slimmer cases with heatpipe cooling (no moving parts). Lian Li needs to get on it and make a Mini-itx case.

    As I said, the current crop of cases is too bulky and stupid looking with not enough cooling.

    If you allowed the unit to be only as tall as the rear panel I/O and used a good heatpipe to one side of the motherboard PCB, with room for either an expansion card to the other side with a 90° header you could get a 9800GT and a 3.2Ghz dual core into a case a little bigger than a Eeepc 904, with a heck of a lot more power.

    If you want to tell me there are sexy mini-itx cases save your breath, I haven't seen one half as compelling as this: http://sportcompactpc.com/web/default.aspx">http://sportcompactpc.com/web/default.aspx

    That case can hold a full ATX board with a dual-slot pci-e card, a full hard drive (or two), and isn't all that much bigger than most ITX cases.

    I have some requirements:

    Slim (as mentioned, only 2-3cm more than the rear panel header opening)

    No moving parts (no fans)

    Heatpipe cooling (for the video card too.)

    Room for an 9800GT (or the new 9600GT with the reduced power requirements).

    If I had a couple thousand to spend I would assuredly design my own and start prototyping it on some of the services that make custom cases. (sorry, cant' find it now, but they offer a free CAD program so you can design your case)

    My problems with current cases?

    CD Drives block heatsinks and make the case too big, put them under the motherboard in an additional expansion, so you can remove it if you don't need it.

    Cases are too deep, front to back I haven't seen one that is the same size as a standard VCR/DVD player (AKA they won't fit around my TV in the entertainment cabinet). Fix this by making the motherboard abut the front of the case with a small gap of 1-2cm and then make the front panel modular so that the RAM slots/Headers are still usable.

    Lack of good cooling solutions. Not one case has a good heatsink that comes with it. What use is a small PC if you need a freaking 1U fan that screams at 13,000RPM? Or you are forced to use a (shudder) Atom CPU?

    Lack of proper space for add-on card. The only case I know of with proper add-on card space is the Morex Cubid series, unfortunately they are obscenely deep and look like a DirecTV box.
  • sikahr - Wednesday, February 4, 2009 - link

    You see, Pineview is first Intel CPU with integrated GPU, available first quarter 2010, and after that there will be no "simple" atoms without graphics. Result, bye bye Ion.

    Nvidia is out of chipset business very soon.
  • Slappi - Wednesday, February 4, 2009 - link

    You are a nutjob.

    AMD is going bust as we speak.

    INTC's chip combo will be weak.

    NVDA has 1.3 billion dollars.

    NVDA is making money.

    You are a moron.

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