NVIDIA Ion – Intel Atom Done Right?

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HD Video Playback and Badaboom

To test out high definition (HD) video playback I downloaded a 1080p video clip called Stormchasers from Microsoft and fired up Windows Media Player to see how it would work out.

Stormchasers 1080p WMV Video Clip

The Stormchaser video clip runs at 24 frames per second (fps) and at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 (1080p). The NVIDIA Ion reference platform was able to play the clip just fine and the CPU usage was between 50-55% during the playback of the video clip.

Stormchasers 1080p WMV Video Clip

The next HD Playback test that I ran used Cyberlink PowerDVD 8 (8.0.2509.50), which is a recent build of PowerDVD that has been optimized specifically for NVIDIA platforms supporting the third generation of NVIDIA PureVideo HD (VP3) technology. Since the Ion uses the NVIDIA GeForce 9400 GPU this is the ideal player for this platform. I downloaded and ran the 1080P trailer for the movie The Dark Knight and found the Ion platform had no problems playing this clip and it was smooth as a babies butt. Notice that Hardware Acceleration was enabled and that the CPU utilization was between 12-15%.

Stormchasers 1080p WMV Video Clip

Playing the same clip I disabled the Hardware Acceleration in PowerDVD and the CPU utilization went up to 96-100%, which caused the video playback to not be perfect. If you look at the screen shot above you can actually see when the Hardware Acceleration was disabled as the CPU usage went from 15% to 98% in no time at all. It is obvious that PureVideo HD technology needed to be stutter-free! For those that don’t know about PureVideo HD technology, it is the combination of high-definition video decode acceleration and post-processing that delivers unprecedented picture clarity, smooth video, accurate color, and precise image scaling for movies and video. The NVIDIA GeForce 9400M GPU helps make HD content playable and makes the Ion platform stand out from other desktop solutions that use the Intel Atom processor.

Badaboom

Something else that should be pointed out is that since the NVIDIA Ion uses the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M GPU it can take advantage of CUDA based applications like Badaboom. Just for fun I transcoded the trailer of The Dark Knight and found that it took 2 minutes 45 seconds to complete the transcoding at 24.7FPS on average. Normally this process would take over 20 minutes on the Atom 230 processor, so this is a nice feature!

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