Nvidia Ion, Bringing Multimedia Capabilities To The Atom

by Rafael Hernandez on January 13, 2009 · 0 comments

Intel’s Atom CPU has created a whole new market for portable devices, but that doesn’t mean others won’t find a use for it in more stationary applications. Nvidia’s Ion platform hopes to inject a bit of multimedia prowess into things by pairing the Atom with their very own GeForce 9400M chipset. The Tech Report has more details on this interesting combination:

From there, we moved on to HD video playback. We’ve seen single-core
Atoms struggle with decoding 720p MPEG4 videos, but the Ion made HD
video look easy, playing back a 1080p clip encoded as a 40 Mbps
MPEG4/AVC file with no visible dropped frames or hiccups. In Task
Manager, CPU utilization on the dual-core Atom processor ranged as high
as about 14%. Now, that info should come with the caveat that we don’t
entirely trust Task Manger to understand the true utilization of a CPU
core with dual hardware threads like the Atom. And we’ve not tested a
dual-core Atom without the assistance of Nvidia PureVideo as a
reference point. But we’re confident of the Ion platform’s ability to
handle HD video quite competently, with excellent image quality.

Of course, no conversation with Nvidia these days would be complete
without a mention of CUDA, its push into non-traditional applications
for GPUs. Since our time was limited, we decided not to try out the
Badaboom GPU-based video transcoder and instead chose to focus on
Adobe’s new GPU-accelerated version of Photoshop. Sure enough, for
certain functions, using Photoshop on the Ion proved to be faster than
doing so on even a fairly beefy desktop system without GPU
acceleration. We were able to rotate, zoom, and pan across a large
(~4-6 megapixel) image fairly smoothly in real time on a 1920×1200
display–not quite as well as with a big, discrete GPU, of course, but
still pretty snappily.

Some dual channel memory options would be nice to see but, otherwise, a nice future alternative to Intel’s chipsets.

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