NVIDIA’s Ion: Too Expensive for the Netbook Market?

The Intel Atom platform, on which most netbooks are based, lacks the graphical grunt for things like 3D games and HD video playback, because Intel insisted on paring the Atom processor with an outdated graphical chip by Intel. Several efforts are underway to resolve this issue, and one of them, NVIDIA’s Ion, might already be in trouble before it has even arrived.

The Ion platform pairs an Intel Atom processor, found in most netbooks today, with an NVIDIA9400M GPU to provide netbooks with a much more powerful 3D and video decoding experience. However, the first netbooks based on this platform have been announced and are ready to burst out of the gates, but there’s one problem: pricing.

One of the two announced Ion netbooks, the Samsung N510, has been priced at a whopping 599 USD, which is twice that of many other netbooks, raising the question whether or not having a 9400M GPU is really worth paying twice as much. To make matters worse – the N510 carries the Ion LE patform, which is an inferior variant of the Ion platform, artificially limited to just DirectX 9.0 which will reduce its performance in Windows Vista and Windows 7. In other words, potential netbooks with the full-blown Ion platform will be even more expensive. The other announced Ion netbook, the Lenovo S12, is facing a pricetag of 550 USD, but this price still has to be confirmed.

Those are fairly high prices, especially in a market that got where it is today because of its price. While it is obviously far too early to say anything about Ion’s viability in the marketplace, prices like this and artificially reduced performance really aren’t helping.


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