Ion takes flight with Acer AspireRevo nettop

Are you ready? No, Nvidia isn't kicking off another awkward PR campaign. Rather, the first PC based on its Ion platform has finally launched—and "over 40" systems like it are on track to follow this quarter and the next. Soon, Nvidia says the market will be swarming with desktops and laptops that couple its integrated graphics chipset with Intel's Atom CPUs.

For now, the spotlight is on the AspireRevo, a diminutive sub-$300 desktop that launched at an Acer event on Tuesday evening. Although it measures only 7.1" x 7.1" x 1.2" and costs about the same as pedestrian nettops like Asus' Eee Box B202, this little computer packs more of a punch thanks to its "new" Ion, er, GPU. The Ion isn't really a new product, mind you—it has pretty much the same silicon as the GeForce 9400M that powers Apple's latest MacBooks. Apparently, however, the Ion moniker applies when that silicon is sitting next to an Atom processor.

In any case, Nvidia says its Ion platform GPU lets the AspireRevo do things like run casual 3D games (in the vein of Spore or Battlefield Heroes) and decode 1080p video in real time. Acer includes an HDMI port and an HDMI-to-DVI dongle, as well, so you can use the system either as a home-theater PC or as tiny desktop capable of driving a nice, HD-capable monitor.

Aside from the Ion GPU and HDMI output, the AspireRevo features a single-core Atom 230 processor, up to 4GB of dual-channel DDR2 RAM, up to 250GB of mechanical storage, one external Serial ATA port, six USB ports, one VGA port, a card reader, and a copy of Windows Vista Home Premium. Home theater PC fans may salivate at the eSATA port and OS choice in particular, since Vista Home Premium has Windows Media Center built in, and eSATA should provide lightning-quick access to external storage.

The Ion GPU can do more than play games and decode video, too. As GPU computing continues to develop, the Ion can fill in as a co-processor for the somewhat performance-challenged Atom CPU. In one example, Nvidia said transcoding a two-minute 1080p trailer took about 20 minutes using the Atom. Switching to the CUDA-assisted Badaboom video converter made the process happen in real time, cutting the encode time to two minutes.

The biggest remaining question is exact pricing and availability. The AspireRevo still isn't up on Acer's official site, and as far as we know, neither Acer nor Nvidia has announced specific pricing publicly yet. Nvidia is adamant that the machine will cost less than $300, although you can probably expect some of the more tricked-out variants to go over that threshold.

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