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.

Comments closed
    • flip-mode
    • 10 years ago

    I sure do despise the Atom, but this is a cool looking product.

    I think the Ion is possibly crazier than the Atom, at least at this moment. If I ever end up with an Atom based machine, I’m not going to be watching movies and playing games on it. I’m going to stick it in the kitchen and store recipes and phone numbers on it and check email and surf the web. Or I’ll stick it down in the basement next to my router and hook up and external hard drive and make it a file server. And any of those uses would make due just fine with something even as pathetic as Intel’s 945G.

    But whatev. If Nvidia can find a market for the Ion then more power to em.

    • ish718
    • 10 years ago

    Only good thing I see here is the price, lol.

    • Deffexor
    • 10 years ago

    What’s the power draw (in watts) for this Nettop?

    • Shinare
    • 10 years ago

    I wonder if you can upgrade the processor yourself, or is it soldered on?

    • Rakhmaninov3
    • 10 years ago

    If only it had a damn Blu-Ray drive in it.

    • ludi
    • 10 years ago

    Atom, shmatom. The GPU does the HD and it’s got HDMI output. If it really comes out for less than $300 they might have me as a replacement for my current C7-based HTPC, although I’m guessing that really means “$299″…

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 10 years ago

    Ion is fine but the Atom has really not been moving forward fast enough in the developement pipeline. we could really benefit from a solid core 2 or phenom 2 or atholon processor in there.

    • PRIME1
    • 10 years ago

    CUDA+HULU

    Although I need optical out….or a new receiver.

      • Usacomp2k3
      • 10 years ago

      Can your TV pass-through the audio to S/PDIF output?

        • ew
        • 10 years ago

        It’s also very likely that the green audio out headphone jack can do digital out as well.

        • shiznit
        • 10 years ago

        Most TVs will not pass through a multi-channel audio signal coming from HDMI to the S/PDIF output, it will be reduced to Stereo. Only digital audio signals coming in from the antenna/cable tuner will be passed through in multi-channel.

          • Palek
          • 10 years ago

          Hulu is probably not multi-channel, anyway, so no problems there.

          FYI, what actually happens with most TVs is that the EDID info passed from the TV (sink) to the input device (source) declares that the TV is only capable of receiving stereo LPCM over the HDMI link and thus the source will downmix multi-channel audio to stereo or choose a stereo audio track if available. The TV usually does not perform the downmixing.

          Some higher-end televisions may be able to process multi-channel sound over HDMI, although I suspect that these sets would be limited to multi-channel PCM input or at the most Dolby Digital (AC-3) decoding. I have not seen a single DTS-capable TV set and definitely no support for the newer lossless formats from Dolby and DTS. Although, if I remember correctly these new formats are backwards compatible with their old-school lossy counterparts, so theoretically a TV could extract the Dobly Digital or DTS bit-stream and pass it through to S/PDIF but that is a lot of work and there is a simpler way.

          The ideal scenario is that you have an HDMI-equipped AV amp that support all the fancy new audio formats, you hook up your sources to the amp, the amp decodes the audio and passes the video to your TV.

        • PRIME1
        • 10 years ago

        Hmm… it is possible. My TV does have an optical out port.

        I currently have a P4 with a 6600GT for Hulu, but if it ever breaks. I want something compact (hopefully quiet) like this Ion box. It would have to run Hulu.

      • Nomgle
      • 10 years ago

      If you want to convert CoAx to Optical, then just buy a CoAx to Optical convertor.
      Here’s one if you’re in the UK – §[< http://cpc.farnell.com/_/pof-820/coax-to-optical-adaptor/dp/AV12736<]§

    • lycium
    • 10 years ago

    something like this, with the dualcore atom and a built-in backup battery, should replace millions of office computers…

      • indeego
      • 10 years ago

      Tis what I’m thinking. Our office loves ultra small/light desktops/laptopsg{<.<}g

    • no51
    • 10 years ago

    Dear HP,
    You know that dv2 notebook you just released?
    1. Put it in this form factor
    2. Charge <$400
    3. ????
    4. Profit!!!

    • thermistor
    • 10 years ago

    With its limited processing power, I’d put this more in the MacTV camp. The MacTV is quite a bit less than the Mac Mini and the analogy is not exact.

    Also, I have a feeling that the average buyer for this will not be using it for a HTPC, but a cheap desktop, so they’ll get the worst of both worlds – not really using it for HD video watching, and being an underpowered PC for all intents and purposes.

    • Hattig
    • 10 years ago

    Hmm, give us a version with the dual-core Atom or a low-power Core 2 Duo and I’ll be more interested. However it could make a nice media device at half the price of the Mac Mini.

    • Meadows
    • 10 years ago

    g{https://techreport.com/ja.zz?id=383197<]§ I demand a trophy or something.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 10 years ago

    Single core Atom aside, the biggest disappointment I see is the lack of good audio-only outputs like S/PDIF. I guess the USB out is usable in that way but not ideal.

      • eitje
      • 10 years ago

      i was going to say something similar, but in this day & age, HDMI video/audio is sufficient. I don’t own any HDMI-based stereo systems, but this is an interesting reason to upgrade! 😀

        • WillBach
        • 10 years ago

        Hmmm, does the AspireRevo support audio over HDMI? Would the Atom be able to support 5 or 7 channel sound? Does NVIDIA have a way to handle that on the GPU? Maybe they support digital audio over the analogue-looking audio out port? All worth looking into. 🙂

        • MadManOriginal
        • 10 years ago

        For A/V yeah. Ion does support separate S/PDIF output and for me I’d have to say no without it. If this is meant to be an A/V hub type device I wouldn’t want to be forced to route audio through HDMI output, through an A/V receiver (ugh) in order to get just audio. But then I’m a 2-channel audio throwback and don’t really care near as much about home theater, for me there are already devices that do the digital transport bit or even DIY tiny computers but it’s always nice to spend not much more and get a PC too.

        btw you should say no too, this isn’t a VIA Nano! 😛

          • eitje
          • 10 years ago

          I know, I’m shamed, but my second love is SFFs.

      • shirtaspants
      • 10 years ago

      Actually, USB is a far better solution than SPDIF if you’re doing computer-as-transport. There’s a range of good USB audio solutions out there, from the Trends thing (for decent SPDIF conversion) to cheap USB DACs to Wavelength Audio’s proprietary async interface badassery (which is now starting to be licensed by companies like Ayre).

      I can’t think of a worse digital transport than on-computer SPDIF.

        • SonicSilicon
        • 10 years ago

        What is your rationale? References?

        • MadManOriginal
        • 10 years ago

        I’m aware of most of what’s available for USB. It’s not ‘far better’ universally it’s just another option. It’s all about the implementation and some people might have very good S/PDIF-only gear already.

    • shiznit
    • 10 years ago

    offer a dual core Atom option and I will buy this immediately.

    been wanting an htpc for a long time. (yes I know about the Zotac but this is almost perfect for my needs)

      • maasenstodt
      • 10 years ago

      I have to agree. Equip this with an Atom 330 or something comparable (ohhhh… dual-core Nano, perhaps?) and I’ll buy it almost as soon as it hits Newegg.

    • floodo1
    • 10 years ago

    NIIICE alternative to mac mini, even if it is weird for having ports on basically all sides

    • paulWTAMU
    • 10 years ago

    gaaah, better CPU PLEASE! Otherwise really cool looking small desktop…but I mean, please, a low power C2D or AMD??

      • Skrying
      • 10 years ago

      Realistic expectations… please! Maybe a CULV or Neo but nothing more powerful than that.

        • tocatl
        • 10 years ago

        There is already a dual core neo at 1.6ghz, i saw an acer laptop with one…

        • paulWTAMU
        • 10 years ago

        Anything that’s better than the weaksauce that is atom. And dual core. I’d be more than willing to pay a bit more for it and/or add a bit of height for it.

          • Skrying
          • 10 years ago

          Then you’re looking for an entirely different product. Dell makes one called the Studio Hybrid, Apple makes one called the Mac Mini.

            • paulWTAMU
            • 10 years ago

            I know, but the dell hybrid uses craptacular intel IGPs, and the Mac Mini only has a gig of ram and a teeny hard drive. This’d be nearly perfect ‘cept that needs just a bit more of a CPU *sigh*

            • indeego
            • 10 years ago

            I agree. Some of us in business just want a better IGP brought to the table. We look at movies on our allotted 2 minute breaksg{

            • paulWTAMU
            • 10 years ago

            Smartass :p Really, since I don’t game much anymore it’s not a huge deal to go without a potent GPU, but I do want to be able to occasionally play a PC game on it. The 9400M and 3200 both work pretty well for that. Intel 950 or 3100…not so much.

            • WillBach
            • 10 years ago

            The Mac Mini comes with up to 2 GB of DDR3 RAM @ 1066 Hertz, supports up to 4 GB. The hard drives available are small, though that’s not as big a deal with 5 USB ports and wifi connectivity.

            That said, I really like NVIDIA’s Ion platform, although I’m holding out for Snapdragon.

            • henfactor
            • 10 years ago

            I’d like to say I remember the days when memory ran at 1066 *[

            • WillBach
            • 10 years ago

            What’s six orders of magnitude between friends, eh?

            • Skrying
            • 10 years ago

            The Mac Mini can be upgraded in both regards either by yourself or before purchase. Doing it yourself of course will be much cheaper.

    • Buzzard44
    • 10 years ago

    Still…..not…..enough…..power.

    Especially after showing us that socket 775 mini-ITX with a PCI-E 2.0 x16 port.

    The atom: One giant leap backwards per user, one small step backwards for mankind.

    • Tamale
    • 10 years ago

    gah!

    can’t someone make something like this with a ULV C2D or AMD LE?

    </atom-smashing-rant>

      • mbutrovich
      • 10 years ago

      Just DIY it with the Zotac 9300-ITX.

    • ssidbroadcast
    • 10 years ago

    Acer’s industrial designers have done it again; that is one sexy looking nettop.

      • Anonymous Coward
      • 10 years ago

      I say the term “industrial design” should be retired. Except for the design of factories.

        • ssidbroadcast
        • 10 years ago

        And replace it with… ?

          • ludi
          • 10 years ago

          /[

    • Kurkotain
    • 10 years ago

    nice platform, except for the atom bottleneck, and i suppose using the CUDA
    thing can’t be that easy, at least for people with little technical ability, normal people are not gonna buy this for its GPGPU abilities, they are going to buy this because its cheap and its more powerful than other atom platforms, and guys with more technical expertise would build their own using cheaper more powerful parts, unless they *[

    • eitje
    • 10 years ago

    ooo, media extender.

    • cegras
    • 10 years ago

    Can atoms supplant pentium 4? I’ve been looking at buying a replacement for that Dell denizen that belches smoke in the corner of the house …

      • Ushio01
      • 10 years ago

      I don’t believe so. It’s probably safer to assume Pentium 3 and earlier though.

      • Meadows
      • 10 years ago

      Not performance-wise, but the power usage changes could surprise you. However, I’d wager that this computer could be used for whatever your P4 used to be for. It won’t belch smoke or be noisy either, but it won’t give you “free” heating during cold seasons.

      • d2brothe
      • 10 years ago

      Depends on the workload. There have been a few benchmarks that claimed Atom was faster than the P4, but those generally relied on workloads that were heavily optimized against the P4 (ie, lots of branching, no SSEx instructions). For mosts tasks P4 is probably faster, but not by a whole lot.

    • Skrying
    • 10 years ago

    By far the best looking netop so far. Still, after the revelation that Atom can’t even handle Hulu I would never consider one now. Sure, 1080P playback for certain formats is nice but if you’re going to do that then you’re also probably going to want to be able to stream from online places of content, which Ion can’t help with.

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