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Nvidia's Next Generation Ion Platform

Nvidia's Next Generation Ion Platform

Manufacturer: Nvidia

Nvidia's original Ion might have got off to a slow start, but it turned out to be more of a success than we'd really anticipated. Intel's shortcomings in the graphics department left Nvidia with a prime opportunity to bolt on its 9400M MCP onto the original Atom CPU via the standard front side bus link that it still had a license for, and provide a whole host of extra features: x16 PCI-E, more SATA ports, and of course, much more capable graphics. The downside was that the 65nm Ion chip was quite power hungry, and of course, added to the cost - but it was a potent enough threat that it rattled Intel into a catty PR reaction.

If you're one of those readers with a lot of patience for following legal proceedings, you know that Nvidia doesn't have a Quickpath license (at least as far as Intel is concerned), which means Ion's original approach is at a dead end for the latest Atom 'Pineview' chips. The graphics portion has been moved onto these CPUs, and the NM10 chipset is connected via the DMI link Nvidia has no license to use. The whole platform is much lower power and has a smaller physical footprint, which is great for netbook design and battery life. However, this leaves Nvidia in a pickle. How can it make its Ion platform work?

Nvidia's Next Generation Ion Platform

The answer is that it's now a compromise: The Next Generation Ion Platform - as it is officially now known, not Ion 2 - isn't really a chipset, and really just a GPU. It no longer gives all the features the original Ion platform did. Thanks for that, Intel.

It's no longer about the graphics performance either, as Nvidia is concentrating on pitching its Next Generation Ion Platform (featuring Picard, not Kirk) as a cost effective chip for media consumption rather than gaming.

Next Gen Ion includes support for dual digital outputs including HDMI (unlike just D-Sub from Intel's GMA 3150), and will accelerate 720p h.264 video with ease, just like the original Ion platform. Nvidia demonstrated how it even has enough grunt for dual-stream Blu-ray video while not taxing the Atom N450 all that much, however Nvidia did not comment on its audio capacity - we've yet to find out about HD bit-stream and multi-channel audio passthrough via HDMI.

Nvidia's Next Generation Ion Platform