Comprising the nVidia GeForce 9400 GPU with an Intel Atom chip, the nVidia Ion platform aims to bring premium performance to small form factor netbooks and PCs. We put an early nVidia Ion reference unit through its paces.

The small reference unit we have in-house won't reach store shelves, but here are the specs for a little perspective. This palm-size black box crams in a Seagate Momentus 200GB hard drive, 2GB of RAM, and a host of I/O ports, along with a 1.6GHz Intel Z330 Atom CPU and an nVidia GeForce 9400M graphics processor.

It also shipped to us with Windows Vista Enterprise Edition. No joke.

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So how does this nVideo Ion system perform? In WorldBench 6 real-world speed benchmark tests, it scored a 38. Not exactly scorching fast - that is, until you start stacking it up against netbooks, for which that score is a little above average.

This machine, however, differs from the standard netbook configuration of 1GB of RAM and Windows XP. Why Vista? "Because we think people deserve a better experience," quipped one nVidia spokesperson. (We'd rather "settle" for XP and see a faster WorldBench 6 score.)

For the sake of the closest comparison we could muster, the Sony Vaio P, which also has 2GB of RAM, an Atom processor and chip set, and Windows Vista installed, ran nine points slower on WorldBench 6. Okay, nVidia, you've made your point. But we'd wager that having XP installed would probably tack another five to 10 points on to the WorldBench 6 score.

nVidia Ion

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