Review Index:

NVIDIA Next-Generation ION 2 Preview - Discrete GPU + Optimus

Author: Ryan Shrout
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

Next-gen ION Products and Closing Thoughts

This week at the CeBit show in Germany there are quite a few new netbooks and systems being shown with this version of NVIDIA ION technology inside. 

ASUS 1201PN, EeeBox 1501P and EeeTop 2010PNT

ASUS started the netbook craze though it has obviously expanded beyond the company's wildest expectations.  If ASUS is known for one thing, it is adopting new technologies in a way that very few others can and innovating in a timely manner.

The ASUS Eee PC 1201PN will integrate the "next-generation ION" GPU with the Intel Atom Pine Trail processor in a 12-in screen form factor.  We have a review of the original 1201N model that should be ready very soon as well.

The ASUS Eee Box 1501P applies this same internal hardware to a nettop system that integrates an optical drive and multi-card reader for an interesting option both for a basic PC or a home theater computer. 

Lenovo C200

The Lenovo C200 is an all-in-one computer that will integrate the Atom platform with ION technology at CeBit this week and definitely has a nice look to it based on these mock-ups.

Zotac Zbox

In much the same look and feel as the ASUS 1501 above, the Zotac Zbox has been upgraded with ION 2 and Optimus technology as well.

Acer Aspire One 532G

We wrote about the Acer Aspire One 532G quite extensively last week as it was the first ION 2-based product to be shown.  The 10.1-in netbook will offer up to 10 hours of battery life
while supporting full 720p video playback (and even 1080p through the
HDMI connection).

Discrete ION card??

Now this is kind of interesting - NVIDIA is apparently preparing a discrete graphics card for users that would like to add ION technology to an existing small form factor or home theater PC.

The card itself only uses a x1 PCI Express slot and is half height meaning that it should fit in a wide assortment of mini-ITX and mATX systems in order to add GPU-accelerated video playback and more.  The external connections include a DVI port for standard PC monitors and of course an HDMI port for easy output to a TV.  The GPU itself is being actively cooled (rather than with a heatsink-only passive solution) which is a bit of a let down but its possible we might see options that would be completely silent from other partners.

Final Thoughts

NVIDIA's new next-generation ION technology was a necessary move from the team that has been pushed around by Intel for too long.  Intel successfully cut NVIDIA out of the chipset business all together starting with the mainstream and enthusiast desktop nForce brand and now with the original ION.  The only answer NVIDIA could respond with was a discrete graphics solution that still offers much better performance and loads more features than the Intel integrated offerings and connectivity through the PCI Express bus that Intel basically can't cut off. 

NVIDIA has done just that and added in support for Optimus technology to offer a better overall solution, but not markedly so when compared to the first iteration.  Those of you looking for dramatic (or any) performance jumps are obviously going to be disappointed, but otherwise, this simply means that more users will be able to get ION technology in their netbook and nettops as 2010 advances.

Expect to find a handful of ION 2-based systems on March 15th and "many many more" by the end of the month.

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