One of Nvidia’s key arguments in promoting Ion is that it can play HD movies smoothly, so naturally we wanted to check. For once, we won’t include the graphics results on this page, because they’d be superfluous. The answer is really very simple: yes, you can play Blu-ray content with no problems and without jerkiness on the Ion platform. During our favorite scene in Casino Royale, (scene 13, with an average throughput of approximately 30 Mbps), PowerDVD 8’s CPU utilization averaged 66.7%. So, even with the GeForce handling decoding of the H.264 format, the Atom processor was being pushed to its limits.
The 945GC chipset, on the other hand, can’t handle the decompression chores, so playing Blu-ray disks is simply impossible on the Intel platform. That doesn’t mean that HD is inaccessible, however. It’s quite possible to play HD video with the Intel motherboard, but you’ll have to stick to lighter movies—720p and not 1080p. We were able to play movie previews with bitrates of approximately 10 Mbps with no problem.
Note also that the player software is important, too: the same file might play fluidly with Cyberlink Power DVD but be extremely jerky with Apple QuickTime. When graphics power is short, poor optimization sticks out like a sore thumb.