NVIDIA ION platform review | preview -
An ION storm of performance
With solely the Atom 230 in mind, the product is of course not real fast. But it's fast enough for Windows Vista and your basic usage like listening to music, browsing and everyday small stuff.
To understand what small amount of processor and system power we are working with here, let me show you some other products and where they rank in performance compared to what we are actually testing.
Queen CPU test
This simple integer benchmark focuses on the branch prediction capabilities and the misprediction penalties of the CPU. It finds the solutions for the classic "Queens problem" on a 10 by 10 sized chessboard. At the same clock speed theoretically the processor with the shorter pipeline and smaller misprediction penalties will attain higher benchmark scores. For example -- with HyperThreading disabled -- the Intel Northwood core processors get higher scores than the Intel Prescott core based ones due to the 20-step vs 31-step long pipeline. However, with enabled HyperThreading the picture is controversial, because due to architectural bottlenecks the Northwood core runs out of internal resources and slows down. Similarly, at the same clock speed AMD K8 class processors will be faster than AMD K7 ones due to the improved branch prediction capabilities of the K8 architecture.
CPU Queen test uses only the basic x86 instructions, it consumes less than 1 MB system memory and it is HyperThreading, multi-processor (SMP) and multi-core aware and thus is a multithreading CPU Benchmark with MMX, SSE2 and SSE3 optimizations.
So here we can see what diminutive amount of performance the Atom 230 processor in the ION kit really has.
- I inserted a high-end to mainstream Phenom X4 9950 in the chart so you can mentally relate and understand what kind of performance we are dealing with here today.
- Then a budget to mainstream Athlon X2 7750 BE worth 70 bucks, very mainstream performance.
- The two Atom based systems. A Atom 330 (dual core) system based on a P45GC motherboard.
- And last in the line-up, the processor that is embedded in our ION reference sample, based in the a Atom 230 (single core) processor on the GF9400M chipsetf or ION.
If you look at scaling, you an understand the tremendous task for the Atom 230 to be able to handle 1080P movies. It's just not powerful enough. And that's where the GPU would help out really well.
We'll show you such performance with a video in a minute actually.
ZLib CPU test
This integer benchmark measures combined CPU and memory subsystem performance through the public ZLib compression library Version 1.2.2
CPU ZLib test uses the basic x86 instructions, it is HyperThreading, and multi-core (CMP) aware. A very good test to measure multi-core performance among platforms.
A second test again purely for you to visualize what Atom processors can do and are all about.
If we run a compression test, we again see how little the Atom 230 really has to offer. It's enough for browsing, heck even Vista (our test was done with Windows Vista 32-bit). It's actually fast enough for that thanks to it's 2 GB memory.
Memory Read test
And speaking of memory, our unit has it running at 1066 MHz. Compare to the dual-core Atom 330 on a P45GC chipset and notice that the GF9400 with single core Atom 230 chipset is perceptibly faster thanks to the GF9400M chipset.
But let's have a look at the product with the help of some video's, as you'll gain a much more detailed vision of what it actually is capable of rather then producing raw platform benchmark numbers.
A preview on NVIDIA ION. What NVIDIA has done with the ION is to create a platform that combines a GeForce 9400M chipset with an Intel Atom processor, all placed on a Pico-ITX PCB. The advantage here is by using such a chipset the environment (PC) will instantly gain modern features and the sheer influence of a GeForce graphics processor meaning you can playback 1080P movies on for example a Netbook or mini-PC.