It was a sensational debut. NVIDIA's Ion platform received unanimous approval at this year's CES 2009 show, en route to winning the show's 'Best Enabling Technology' award. Going by the gushing quotes from tech enthusiasts, the small Pico-ITX wonder box that was NVIDIA's engineering sample, was greeted like a cure for cancer.
Well, it was not exactly that of course, but in its debut performance on the big stage, the Ion did appear to be a cure for "Blu-ray-ritis", or what we term the impotence of Intel's Atom when it comes to handling HD video content.
Since then, we have had a chance to test the NVIDIA engineering sample for ourselves and found it to be as capable as advertised. With the same integrated GPU as the one now found on the entirety of Apple's notebook series, the GeForce 9400M, the Ion manages to lift its partner processor, the Intel Atom above its usual mediocre performance. 1080p HD videos were playing smoothly on our system.
Yet, despite its potential, what followed has been a period of uncertainty, with seemingly no takers for the chipset among OEMs. It was looking a bit like VIA's Nano processor, left for dead by the Intel Atom. As usual, part of the reason is Intel, which has responded to the competition posed by the Ion with an attack on the chipset, with higher power consumption and cost quoted as main weaknesses.
It made for exciting news for us but we were no closer to seeing the Ion in any form, whether as a low-cost, low-power media center replacement or in one of the mini-notebooks that were taking the market by storm. That is, until this month.
Together with Acer, NVIDIA has finally made good its promise to deliver the Ion platform. The Acer AspireRevo is a small system about the size of a large book. With a volume of around 1 liter, it's slightly larger than the engineering sample from NVIDIA, but then again, it also looks more polished. Before we get to it, here's how it looks and the technical specifications of our review unit:-