Nvidia's Ion integrated graphics chipset has grabbed a healthy number of design wins this year. And according to the rumor mill, Nvidia will soldier on next quarter, complementing Intel's new Pineview Atoms with a discrete graphics processor dubbed Ion 2.
What does Intel have to say about all this? Intel Netbook Marketing Director Anil Nanduri gave his two cents to the folks at Laptop Magazine, and he doesn't think Ion is so hot. Here's what he said:
To run multimedia you don't need a huge graphics chip. And that's what those third-party decoder solutions will show in the marketplace. There are much more innovative ways to get multimedia capabilities that will continue to provide lower power and longer battery life. In terms of usages, netbooks are not meant for gaming. You can run Internet games fine today with the existing solutions. We believe (Ion) adds unnecessary additional cost and the other trade-offs make it less desirable. Our customers have the option to design netbooks how they want to but ultimately the market is going to decide.
By "those third-party decoder solutions," Nanduri was likely referring to products like Broadcom's Crystal HD chip, which add high-definition video decoding capabilities to Pine Trail platforms. As we noted in our Pine Trail review, Intel itself recommends such decoder chips—but the chipmaker seems to think a whole discrete GPU is overkill.
Nanduri does have a point about gaming. In our first brush with the Atom-Ion combo, we didn't exactly witness stellar gaming performance, even in old titles like Half-Life 2. Adding a discrete GPU (which Ion 2 may turn out to be) could impact battery life negatively, as well. On the flip side, having a proper GPU opens the door to OpenCL and other GPU computing technologies, which could give the Atom some much-needed backup in certain intensive tasks. Consumer GPU computing apps are still few and far between, though.