When I jumped on the plane to Las Vegas for CES last week I had hoped to see some devices and for many of them that hope was dashed once I hit the show floor. One of the things that I hoped to see most were netbooks and nettops that were running the NVIDIA Ion platform.
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The Ion platform holds some serious promise with the Atom CPU bundled with an NVIDIA GPU. I was able to see the Ion platform demo system running at the NVIDIA booth and the difference between Ion and the Acer Aspire One NVIDIA was showing HD video on was significant. Ion was smooth and fluid, the video looked fantastic. On the One, the video was choppy and jerky, not something you could watch.
I was disappointed that nowhere on the floor did I run across any Ion powered netbooks or nettops, and there were lots of netbooks around. I asked about the future of Ion at MSI and was greeted with a blank stare.
I jumped over to the Asus booth and things were even bleaker for the Ion platform. One Asus rep said to me when I asked where the Ion platform machines were that Ion might not be offered at all. When I asked why the answer was that the price of a 9400 GPU is something like $50 or $60 on the manufacturers end, meaning that on the consumer end the ion platform would add something along the lines of $100 to $120 to the cost of the machine for a GPU alone. I guess Asus feels that consumers won’t pay that kind of money for smoother video playback, and as much as I hate to admit it, Asus is probably right.
Consider that the Asus Eee, one of the most popular netbooks on the market in a 10-inch form retails for around $399 in one model or another. Add in the ion platform and you have a price of $500 or more. I personally think that when the price of a netbook gets to the $500 range, many consumers will simply opt for a standard notebook instead.
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I am still hoping for the Ion platform to make its way into the market in products we can actually buy, but I think that it may be better in the nettop market where the increase in price from the GPU can be offset somewhat by the decrease in price form not needing a LCD. I would love to have an Ion powered HTPC machine stuck to the back of my TV. Hulu in HD FTW!