Today Nvidia unveiled the details of the next generation of the Ion graphics chip for netbooks. The tech impressed us before, delivering a decent gaming experience on some of our favorite 11.6 inch netbooks of 2009. Ion 2 doesn’t just up the ante in terms of performance, but also adds some new tricks. Here are our favorite features of Ion 2.
Small But Powerful
Last time around Ion was reserved for larger netbooks, but Ion 2 will live in both 10 and 11.6 inch systems. The chips will be different depending on the form factor — 10 inch netbooks will get an 8 core chip while 11.6 inch ones will have 16 cores. Performance on smaller mini-notebooks will be equivalent to what we saw with the first generation Ion, whereas larger systems get a 2X performance boost over first gen. And both sizes will have HDMI out ports.
Show Some Discretion
The new chip will be a true discrete graphics solution this time around with its own dedicated video memory. This will go a long way in delivering the performance Nvidia is promising.
Improved Battery Life With Optimus
We got our first taste of Optimus on the ASUS UL50-VF and we were duly impressed. The seamless GPU switching meant that users no longer had to trade power for graphics performance, nor worry about leaving their notebooks in the wrong mode and thus draining battery life. Ion 2 will also benefit from Optimus, which means that Ion netbooks can once again achieve the longevity we’ve come to expect from the category.
I’ve never been a fan of Windows 7 Starter Edition, and that hasn’t changed the more I use it. Lucky for us, all Ion systems will come with Home Premium, instead. So you won’t have to deal with the arbitrary restrictions of Starter while you enjoy your HD video.
Mini Multimedia Machines
Nvidia is promising that with Ion 2 netbooks will be able to handle GPU-intensive tasks like video encoding and upscaling standard def video to HD. The possibility of making our own home videos on something as small and portable as the Acer Aspire One 532G is pretty exciting. Not to mention the great gaming experience on titles like Spore or World of Warcraft. We saw a demo of the Boxee application backed up by Ion 2 (smooth and slick – we can’t wait to go more in-depth), and with Flash 10.1 hardware acceleration, no video on the Internet will be off-limits to netbooks, even at full screen.
Nvidia is promising a lot with Ion 2 and we’re eager to see how well they deliver. We’ll see the first Ion 2 systems this summer, starting with the 10 inch Acer Aspire One 532G and the 12 inch ASUS Eee PC 1201PN (dare we hope for another dual-core Atom + Ion combo?).
Do netbooks need all this graphics muscle? What would you do with an Ion 2 netbook if you had one?