Netbooks vs. Laptops: Nvidia 9400M 'Ion' chipset stirs competition

Netbooks vs. Laptops: Nvidia 9400M 'Ion' chipset stirs competition

Summary: Just because there isn't an Apple netbook doesn't mean there isn't a chance to crowd the market.Nvidia is launching its GeForce 9400M "Ion" graphics chipset for Netbooks and small desktops today, with the intention of replacing Intel as the go-to provider of the 945 chipset that supports the Atom processor.

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Nvidia 9400M Ion chipsetJust because there isn't an Apple netbook doesn't mean there isn't a chance to crowd the market.

Nvidia is launching its GeForce 9400M "Ion" graphics chipset for Netbooks and small desktops today, with the intention of replacing Intel as the go-to provider of the 945 chipset that supports the Atom processor.

The move resembles Nvidia's "coup" at Apple, where the company bumped Intel silicon from the MacBook because of underperforming graphics, reports Brooke Crothers on CNET's Nanotech blog.

Netbooks from Acer, Asus, HP and Dell all currently use the Atom and Intel silicon. Consider the move Nvidia's first salvo in the Netbook graphics war against Intel, allowing Netbook manufacturers to compete with the thin-and-light laptop segment (which favors Intel's mobile CPUs) head-on.

In other words, Netbooks are gaining muscle:

"What we want to bring to the Atom-based platform is true visual computing," David Ragones, product line manager at Nvidia, said in an interview last week. "For example, high-definition video where Blu-ray (Disc video) processing now happens on the GPU (graphics processing unit), not the CPU (central processing unit), where you get a much more smooth experience."

And according to Nvidia, Intel's 945 chipset is the weakest link, thanks to the limitations of PCI Express bandwidth.

Ragones also claims that his company's one-chip design is more space-efficient than Intel's two-piece chipset, and said GeForce 9400M silicon would offer more robust support for Windows Vista and the upcoming Windows 7 operating system.

The pricee, you ask? Perhaps $50 more than a standard Netbook, according to Crothers' article.

Can Nvidia (and Qualcomm and Freescale Semiconductor and AMD) outgun Intel? Or is the price too steep?

And do Netbooks really need better graphics?

Just how do we define the Netbook, anyway? Tell me what you think in TalkBack.

Topics: Hardware, Intel, Laptops, Mobility, Processors

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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6 comments
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  • Netbooks perhaps not

    but netboxes(Eeebox like),especially those from MSI, and nettops(EeeTop like),with up to 22" touch screen, would definitively need better graphic and more processing power.
    timiteh
    • External displays, high resolution video presentations

      Adding better graphics would make netbooks the perfect presentation devices. High resolution video presentations could easily be displayed on external displays or video projection devices for large rooms. It would also be nice to be able to use all of the accelerated 3D capabilities of modern operating systems on every computer you use, rather than turning it off on your netbook. Consistency is a good thing. Yes, I would pay $50 more for a netbook with an NVidia chip, if it was demonstrably faster than the Intel graphics (which should be pretty easy).
      BillDem
  • RE: Netbooks vs. Laptops: Nvidia 9400M 'Ion' chipset stirs competition

    For me, a netbook is at least in part defined by its selling price. I paid $325 for an MSI Wind U100. I'm not sure if the nVidia 9400M would get me to pay at least $50 more. I guess they can try and see what happens.
    dsommers@...
  • This is...

    ... JUST what we needed. You have no idea of the number of game freaks like myself who would love the thought of that GPU. Not only would HD resolutions and the like be possible, but there are people who would pay hundreds for an ASUS product (the name escapes me) which allows for use of an external graphics card through the PCI express slot, which requires an external monitor (such as a TV) and its own power source. Laptops will be the future, anything that is portable usually becomes the best. It's been proven that laptops can be made with high end graphic cards inside, and now there are internal ones being made in the 9000 series, which is excellent. Soon desktops will exist only for customization ability, and people like myself would be able to buy laptops with a good setup which would last us for years down the line. I would definitely pay the extra 50 should I be able to afford a laptop. And in my country that 50 is over $300, so that says a lot. The one I use now was bought by a friend, and the specs are great, but killed by the slow, pathetic, problematic (though that could simply be because it runs vista) intel 965 chipset. I wish I could change and put in a better one.
    D2 Ultima
  • RE: Netbooks vs. Laptops: Nvidia 9400M 'Ion' chipset stirs competition

    Because of new GPU Technology,Computers should can be simplified,even you use a notebook.

    According to the NVIDIA documents,They said the
    GForce9 can help computer to do something faster with
    suitable applications,if I want to do some video
    editing,I think,the cost of CPU should not be too
    costly than a GPU,GF9400M .

    I think if Intel accept this,We can use a very
    suitable system for about US$600(exclude needed,but it
    looks like reasonably,since i seldom play PC
    platformed games).
    polarhei
  • Great, another bad chipset...

    nVidia's chipsets and GPUs have been aweful lately. Poor Vista drivers, overheating... Sorry, I've had enough nVidia. It's either pure Intel or Intel/ATI for me.
    Narg