Nvidia’s GeForce 9400 launch garnered the company a lot of publicity. After all, the chipset provided exactly what the market had been waiting for:
- It’s compatible with Intel processors; with all due respect to AMD fans, up until Phenom II launched, these offered the best performance and lowest power consumption.
- It’s built around modern graphics circuitry that’s as powerful as an entry-level GeForce add-in, and can decode HD video.
- It does all of this with relatively low power consumption and a small footprint.
The GeForce 9400, and its mobile version, the 9400M, offer a lot more than Intel’s mobile chipsets. That’s particularly true in the area of graphics performance, be it for entry-level desktop PCs, multi-use computers, “home cinema” boxes, or laptops/notebooks. Apple, by the way, made its position clear, going so far as to totally abandon Intel’s integrated chipsets in its MacBook line of notebooks.
But beyond standard desktops and notebooks, Nvidia is aiming at the netbook and nettop market—a lucrative one in tight economic times like these. To go after that market, Nvidia developed its Ion platform. Unveiled a few weeks ago, the Ion reference platform consists of a case containing a pico-ITX motherboard with an Nvidia 9400M chipset and the de rigueur Intel Atom processor.
Does Atom + 9400M add up to the best compromise between sufficient performance, flexibility, and lower energy consumption? Is the classic Intel platform really outmoded? To find out, we tested the very first Ion platform we could get our hands on, and compared it to the first Intel Atom board: the D945GCLF.