NVIDIA FINALLY GOT a sucker to put out an 'ion' box. The tame press is fawning over and rewriting the press release, but the interesting parts are what isn't being said.
The product is a mini-PC called the Aspire Revo basically an Atom CPU with an NV 9400 chipset. It is truly a yawner of a product, but there are a lot of interesting things to talk about in spite of this, namely how the news was parsed.
First is that this is a 'desktop' machine, not a netbook. Two things of interest here, first is that Nvidia still can't get 9400 power use to levels needed for the mobile market, so the cherry-picked bins go to Apple, the rest go to everyone else. Since they suck too much (power that is) to go into mobile parts, they are now desktop units.
The second interesting bit is why Acer didn't use a Celeron to do the same job. Given that the machine is a desktop, and a few more watts wouldn't kill the project, using an Atom and a 9400 makes no sense. Looking at the latest Intel price list, the cheapest Atom is $20, but maxes out at 1.10GHz on a 400FSB. Since that one won't get out of its own way doing the tasks Nvidia curiously insists the Ion can do, they will be using a higher spec Atom 230.
That is less expensive than a Celeron 430, aka a 1.8GHz Conroe-based core, but this 1.6GHz Atom will also be obliterated by the Conroe. In fact, all Atoms will. The only difference that matters is wattage, and the Celeron takes more. Without battery life to concern yourself with though, who cares?
The Atom is the wrong chip to use here, it is far too slow, and you use none of its strengths, but get hit with all of its weaknesses. putting a 4W TDP CPU with a 12-15W (estimated) chipset is, well, stupid. If you pay $5 extra for the Celeron CPU, it is money well spent considering the apps you want to run actually run right.
The TDP of the Celeron is 35W, easily dissipated by a cheap heatsink. Any 'faster' Atoms are $10 more than the Celeron, but they don't gain any clock speed, just a second core. The Celeron is still notably more powerful.
Nvidia and Acer picking the Atom here is simply dumb. We know they have a warehouse full of non-Apple spec 9400s they want to dump, but they really should have slapped a Celeron behind it. The only reason that the Atom makes the barest minimum sense is that NV is desperate for an ego boost to try and leverage into a netbook win.
Toss in Vista and you have something that moves with the speed of a syphilitic water buffalo wearing leg irons. Come on now... Vista? Really? They can't be serious. Think about performance here, or lack thereof. Me II barely runs on a real desktop, and they are trying to put it on an anaemic pretender with a buggy chipset?
Getting back to the apps, it is rather humorous to see exactly how much critical thought journalists are putting into the articles, look here and here. Notice they print the same 'features' list, parroted back as if they were gospel.
Remember when journalists were critical, and thought about things they wrote instead of regurgitating PR bull? When you actually test the things instead of taking an honest company's PR statements at face value, you realise that the product doesn't quite run the games they list correctly, and has problems with the video content as well. Don't forget, kiddies, that 'ion' in the Tech Report article has twice the CPU power as the Aspire Revo.
How much is this joke of a platform going to cost you? According to Hot Hardware above, it will have an MSRP of $299 or so. For that money, you can get a Dell Inspiron, a Radeon 3650, and pocket enough to buy yourself some munchies. The Dell will annihilate the Ion in every performance category you can think of, and comes with a DVD-RW drive, keyboard, mouse and accessories.
To top it off, the Dell will actually run the things that NV claims the Ion will but independent testing shows isn't really the case. That claimed $50 premium for the 9400 is really well spent, don't you think? On one hand you get something that works, on the other you get all the marketing power of 'ion', but not a box that runs the things you want it to.
In the end, the Ion is a joke. NV has a lot of 9400s that they want to get rid of, and they found a sucker to put their name on the side. I pity the poor fools who buy this thing and expect it to work right... it won't. It is simply underpowered and overhyped.
If you are in the market for a box like this, wait for the Via or AMD-based boxes, or buy the Dell. You won't be sorry.
It just goes to show, you can buy good press. µ
Sign up for INQbot – a weekly roundup of the best from the INQ