Nvidia's Ion 'to bring HD gaming to netbooks'

Nvidia Ion - priming your netbook for HD and Flash content
Nvidia Ion - priming your netbook for HD and Flash content

Nvidia has launched its next-gen Ion chip, intended to bring HD gaming graphics to netbooks and nettop PCs.

Officially announced at CeBIT this week, Nvidia is firmly targeting the small-form computer market with the second-generation of the Ion. Director Of Marketing David Ragones explained to TechRadar just why this iteration of Ion will make an impact.

"The netbook market has exploded in the last few years. 40 million units will go through the market this year – they are complementary PCs as a second on-the-go device.

"The way we see it is that there are two segments [of this market] defining themselves: the standard netbook, with basic functionality, and the Ion segment, which allows HD playback and game playing."

This is a key facet to Ion: the ability to pimp out a netbook so that you can use it for more than basic web browsing and word processing.

So much so that Ragone sees Ion as the magic formula to bring alive Intel's Atom N450 (Pine Trail) platform.

"Pine Trail has had a muted response since launch. If you add Ion to PineTrail, however, you deliver a much better experience.

"Ion is all about HD video – whether it is Blu-ray or YouTube, you are going to get a great experience. If you want a premium experience on a netbook – you can get this with Ion."


One of the major factors behind Ion's graphical prowess is that it uses Nvidia's Optimus technology. This is essentially an on-switch for GPU use.

If, say, you point your browser to YouTube while using an Ion laptop it will automatically switch on the GPU to tackle the Flash-heavy video content.

This cuts the CPU some serious slack and ups the performance of the computer over 10x, according to Nvidia.

But it's not just Flash that Ion can boost. According to Ragone, Ion will bring another level of functionality to netbooks and nettops – and this starts with the ability for netbooks to ship with Windows 7 Home Premium, instead of Windows 7 Starter: "If you want a premium experience with Windows, Ion is the best way to do this."


As we were slightly worried that the Ion chip would awaken even if you had a tab open with, say, a Flash banner, Ragone was keen to note: "The GPU is not tab aware, but app aware. It won't be turned on through Flash banners but sites that use a lot of flash, like YouTube."

Despite the next-generation Ion chip being significantly different to the earlier iteration of the Ion, Nvidia is reticent to rename the GPU. This won't be a problem for consumers, assures Ragone: "Branding-wise, it will continue to be called Nvidia Ion. It shares the same brand generation to generation. So, no we aren't calling it Ion 2.

"It will be known as Nvidia 'next generation' if we need to talk about the latest edition and put it into context."

The first wave of Ion next-gen Ion PCs have already been announced, with the Acer 532G. Other devices to house the latest Ion chip include the Lenovo C-Series all-in-one PC, Asus EeeTop ET22010 and the Zotac ZBox Mag2 – details of which will are still to be released.

Expect a barrage of more announcements as CeBIT trundles on.

Marc Chacksfield

Marc Chacksfield is the Editor In Chief, Shortlist.com at DC Thomson. He started out life as a movie writer for numerous (now defunct) magazines and soon found himself online - editing a gaggle of gadget sites, including TechRadar, Digital Camera World and Tom's Guide UK. At Shortlist you'll find him mostly writing about movies and tech, so no change there then.