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Lenovo launches Nvidia Ion nettop

Mini PC packs desktop graphics power

Lenovo has announced a nettop that provides graphics capabilities usually delivered by full-sized desktop PCs.

The company's new Idea Centre Q110 nettop is equipped with Nvidia's Ion platform, which allows full high-definition video playback, 3D gaming and accelerated media conversion, the company said. The Ion platform brings together Intel's Atom CPU with Nvidia's GeForce 9400M graphics processing unit.

What is a nettop? What's the difference between a netbook and a nettop? A nettop is a type of mini desktop or small form factor computer designed for performing basic tasks such as surfing the Internet, accessing web-based apps and audio/video playback etc. The word nettop is made up from Internet and desktop, in the same way that netbook is from Internet and notebook. So a nettop is the desktop equivalent of a portable netbook.

Lenovo is one of the earlier PC makers to adopt the Ion platform for nettops. Acer was the first, putting Ion in its AspireRevo nettop earlier this year.

PC makers including Lenovo have already put the Ion in netbooks, which are low-cost laptops characterised by small keyboards and screens.

Consumers have not been receptive to nettops, although the machines have been marketed heavily by PC makers, especially in Asia, said Jay Chou, research manager at IDC. Nettops, which are the size of hardcover books, are designed as a desktop replacement for those who rely on the web for most of their computing.

Nettops do not offer anything special to differentiate them from the more mobile netbooks, Chou said. "Definitely for nettops, users expect a better graphics experience," Chou said.

Nettops can afford better graphics as they are not limited by battery life or screen-size constraints, he said. The Ion platform improves on Intel's integrated graphics found in many nettops today, Chou said.

Lenovo has also introduced the Idea Centre Q100 nettop, an entry-level nettop for users who do a lot of web-based activities. The Q100 includes Intel's integrated graphics.

The nettop devices are powered by single-core Intel Atom 230 processors, which run at 1.6GHz and include 512KB of cache. The networking options include wired Gigabit Ethernet and a separate 802.11b/g wireless dongle. The Q110 comes with an HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) connector for HD video playback on external devices. Operating systems available with the systems include Windows XP and Windows Vista.

The Q110 includes 250GB of storage and 2GB of RAM, with prices starting at $349 in the US. The Q100 comes with 160GB of storage and 1GB of RAM, with prices starting at $249. The nettops will be available now in the US.

The products are being announced worldwide, but availability depends upon what the product teams in specific countries elect to offer, said Kristy Fair, a Lenovo spokeswoman.

Lenovo has also put the Atom nettop processor into the IdeaCentre D400 home server, which was also announced on Tuesday. The server is designed to manage content across several PCs in a home, the company said. It supports up to four hard drives, with storage capacity of up to 8TB. It also includes five USB ports and an eSATA port to connect devices like external hard drives. It includes the Windows Home Server OS. Pricing for the PC starts at $499, according to the company.

See also:

Nvidia Ion review


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