The rise of the netbook - affordable ultra-portable laptops - over the last eighteen months has been fascinating to watch. An entirely new market segment has grown up around low powered devices able to deliver a decent computing experience on ever smaller and sexier hardware. Products such as Asus’ Eee PC have sold by the bucket load thanks to their small size, excellent battery life and low price.
However, these devices, and the low-end CPUs - Intel's Atom, Via's Nano - which they've built around have painfully obvious limitations, packing slower performance than six year old desktop chips and often struggling to cut it with today’s flash heavy, high definition online content. Millions of low power Atom computers are now in circulation and yet are severely limited by the very specifications that made them so attractive in the first place.
Click to enlarge - The Samsung NC10 and Asus Eee PC 1000 both use Intel's low power Atom processors
Gaming is practically impossible on netbooks thanks to the extraordinarily limited integrated 945GC graphics in use by the majority of Atom devices. The popular 1.6GHz Atom N230 processor might run cool and draw a tiny amount of power but it lacks the computational horsepower to deliver smooth high definition playback, something that’s becoming more and more popular with the rise of both HD content on YouTube and the adoption of HD video cameras.
Put simply we’re demanding more and more from netbooks, and that’s where Nvidia hopes its Ion platform will come in. We’ve covered its uncertain journey to the market place for a long while now, from launch to disapproval from Intel through to Microsoft certification and a veritable avalanche of Ion based devices at this year’s Computex and now we’ve finally got our hands on the first example of an Ion based product you can take home and call your own – the Acer Aspire Revo.
Click to enlarge - We've already looked at Nvidia's reference ION box, with the Revo sharing much of the same hardware
We’ve already looked extensively at the capabilities and performance of the Ion platform when Tim dismantled Nvidia’s technology sample back in March, where we found it to flattered the Atom's limited performance. We were incredibly impressed that this tiny little “net-top” box was able to play ultra-high bit-rate 1080p video and even manage some less demanding games and have been seriously looking forward to the first Ion products. Let’s find out how the Revo stacks up to our expectations.