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

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.

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.