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NVIDIA's boss reckons Intel Atom needs a helping hand

by Tarinder Sandhu on 29 January 2009, 11:59


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Ever since we first heard about NVIDIA's ION platform, designed to make Intel Atom-powered netbooks/nettops better by pairing the compute power with reasonable graphics in the form of GeForce 9400, we've waited for an official announcement regarding its availability. ION purports to put right much of what is lacking in current netbooks, much to AMD's chagrin, but seeing is believing.

Now, in an interview with Laptop magazine, NVIDIA's jefe and co-founder, Jen-Hsun Huang, adds his two cents into the whole netbook debate.

He reckons that the guts of the current netbook platform, Intel's Atom CPU, doesn't do a whole bunch of things well, including poor support for EA, Microsoft and Adobe software. Presumably he thinks that the introduction of a beefier graphics core will help out here to some degree, which is what ION brings to the table.

Further, he alludes to an ION-enabled netbook costing somewhere in the region of $399 (£300), which, if true for a basic specification, sounds pretty good, but remains coy about the key time-to-market parameter.

Interestingly, when comparing vanilla Atom - N270 CPU and 945-class graphics - to AMD's Neo technology inherent in the Yukon ultra-mobile platform, Huang reckons that Atom would get 'crushed', citing AMD has 'one of the world's most advanced graphics companies'. But he's then reported as stating that 'Atom plus Ion would give Neo a good run for its money'. Yes, of course it would.

In a further poke at Intel, Jen-Hsun then extols the virtues of VIA's Nano processor as being one generation better than Atom, but a lack of software expertise counts against the company, he adds.

Reading somewhat between the lines, NVIDIA's boss doesn't really think that much of Atom as a technology, other than it enables low-cost PCs. Lending a helping hand via the ION program, NVIDIA will save Atom's bacon by making the technology complete from a multimedia viewpoint.

We'd agree to a point, and that point is in having ION-enabled netbooks out real soon, costing no more than £299/$399 for well-featured models. It doesn't really matter if ION comes around if you're interested in the sub-£250 space, because that's the domain of Atom and its supporting chipset. Anything over this and Atom + ION makes sense.... on paper, at least.

HEXUS Forums :: 10 Comments

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If these had been out a bit sooner I'd have certainly go for one of them over the bog standard atom + 945 but still, they do make sense for the lower end budgets as you say.

Over the two though I would be going AMD assuming it's price is competitive or it's every day performance was noticeably better than the Intel + 9400 (which I imagine it is..).

Bring on that HP dv2 :)
Bring on that HP dv2 :)

This ^^
Aren't these going to be obselete now that Intel are effectively doing a SoC? At the least, people will have to stump up the budget (both money and power wise) for components they don't use otherwise.
I can't help but feel that Jen-Hsun Huang is, deliberately or otherwise, missing the point.

He wants a netbook that has :-

- more powerful graphics
- costs more (because of above)
- bigger screen
- runs heavyweight applications better.

But hold on a sec, if you increase the screen size, you increase the case. If you then increase the cost and add powerful graphics, don't you risk driving up heat and driving down battery life? If you do all he wants don't you actually end up with, erm …. a laptop?

The whole point, at least for me, of a netbook is low weight, low (but enough) power, cool, long battery life and minimal cost. He mentions Adobe, EA and Microsoft. Personally, I don't want to play games (or not much beyond solitaire) on a netbook, and I certainly don't want to run Photoshop. I want to be able to do the kind of things I need on the move - I want WP, maybe a bit of Excel, I want to send/receive emails, browse the web, and so on. I do not need fancy graphics chips for that. Mostly, I want to be able to spend 7-10 hours on a plane using a good proportion of that time productively, without charging batteries every two hours, and I don't want to lug a chunky brick about to do it.

Either Jen-Hsun Huang is missing the point of netbooks, or I am. If he can increase graphics power without increasing weight, size or cost, or decreasing battery life, then great. Otherwise, leave netbooks alone, will you!
Good point Saracen, although I'm sure there will be a lot of people who disagree with you. With the introduction of more graphics power the line between what qualifies as a netbook and what is just a small laptop becomes yet more blurred.

A low cost, ultra-portable device that can output full 1080p would win fans though i'm sure… How close are we to that?