Ion, the new small form factor computing solution from Nvidia, has received a "seal of approval" from Microsoft.
The certification means that the Ion platform, which combines Nvidia's GeForce 9400 (or 9400M for laptops/netbooks) with an Intel Atom processor, will be able to run Vista without any snags or major exceptions. The "Certified for Windows Vista" label also means the new platform will be validated with Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) drivers.
While the certification is not 100 percent necessary, it offers both consumers and manufacturers a sort of "peace of mind." Companies looking to offer Ion-based computers can move forward with design plans without wondering if Windows Vista (and eventually Windows 7) will run on an Ion machine.
Ion has certainly caused a stir as of late. The platform was awarded "Best Enabling Technology" at CES 2009, and is also expected to be under the hood of the next Mac Mini. According to Drew Henry, Nvidia's mainboard chipset manager, the first Ion system will be a desktop, and will arrive this spring with a $299 price tag. While the company behind the first Atom desktop is still a mystery, Henry said the offering would be different from Nvidia's own demo design.
While Ion will hit shelves in desktop form first, Henry noted that portable solutions would not be far behind, according to Electronista. While Intel is dominating the netbook market with its own chipset designs, including the new Atom N280/GN40 chipset combo, the Ion is expected to outperform all other offerings in this specific market. With the new GN40 chipset (which uses Intel's X4000 graphics tech), netbooks based on the platform can run 720p High Definition video without any major hiccups. However, Nvidia has claimed that the Ion platform will offer five times more graphics performance without any adverse affects on battery life.
According to Nvidia, the GeForce 9400-powered Ion platform can handle full HD 1080p as well as many different DirectX 10 games. While Crysis might not look as beautiful as ever on an Ion or GN40 netbook, you can probably get away with Left 4 Dead or some Call of Duty 4 action. While the $299 price tag will certainly be attractive to those who don't need a high-power primary computer, Ion desktops should also be a hit with movie buffs. A HD-friendly, small form factor Ion desktop (think Mac Mini in terms of size), combined with a large hard drive or a NAS should make for some enjoyable home theater.