Nvidia Ion hands-on test: What is the Ion nettop Acer Aspire Revo capable of?
PC Games Hardware runs a first test of Nvidia's Ion platform on the Aspire Revo nettop from Acer.
Nvidia's Ion platform is a combination of Intel's Atom CPU series and the onboard graphics chipset Geforce 9400M. In contrast to Atom PCs with Intel's default graphics unit the Ion system is supposed to be able to play HD video material and Blu-Rays smoothly. We tested the new platform in the Acer Aspire Revo.
With their small size and their power consumption of only two to eight watt Intel's Atom CPUs are an optimal solution for netbooks and efficient workstations (nettops) or HTPCs. But the biggest disadvantage is the performance: Even the top model 330 with 1.6 GHz and two cores is not fast enough to fluidly play a HD video. Intel furthermore combines the Atom processors with motherboard chipsets of the 945er series. The GMA 950 graphics unit of those is just overburdened in 3D games or even causes distortions because of driver problems.
Nvidia wants to get rid of those weaknesses and combines the Atoms with the Geforce 9400M chipset (Ion graphics chip). With the Aspire Revo from Acer the first nettop with the Ion technology is already available. The small PC (180 x 130 x 30 millimeters; W x L x H) costs about 300 Euros and is equipped with an Atom N230 (1.6 GHz, single-core, Hyperthreading, four watt TDP), two gigabyte RAM, a 160 GiByte hard drive, a HDMI and a D-Sub connector and the 32 Bit version of Windows Vista Home Premium. Acer told us that a Revo version with the dual-core Atom 330 (1.6 GHz, eight watt TDP) will be available in June at the latest. Furthermore Ion motherboards in ITX format and matching netbooks will follow soon. When we visited Nvidia in Munich, Germany we had a chance to run some brief tests on the Acer Revo.
Ion graphics unit in details
The Ion graphics unit offers support for DirectX 10 as well as CUDA and has 16 Shader ALUs. The GPU is running at 450 MHz and the Shaders at 1,100 MHz. Thus it is roughly comparable to the Geforce 9400 GT. But the onboard graphics unit has access to the comparatively slower system memory. Dedicated Video RAM as it is available in AMD's 790GX onboard graphics chipset has not been added.
As it is the case with the AMD competition or with the Nvidia chips Nforce 780a/980a SLI or Geforce 8200/8300 the Ion GPU supports the processor when HD videos are played. Nvidia plans to release a new variant of the Ion chipset in fall that supports different (not specified) CPUs.
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