At the Consumer Electronics Show last week, NVIDIA was showing off a new reference platform that they were calling the world’s smallest fully capable visual computer. Features like DirectX 10 graphics, NVIDIA CUDA technology, and HD video are now possible in a 3″ x 4″ motherboard. This PC is so small that it fits in the palm of your hand with room left to spare. The system is made possible thanks to Intel’s 1.6GHz Atom 330 processor and NVIDIA’s GeForce 9400M core logic MCP with 16 integrated GeForce graphics cores. Together this chipset and processor make up the NVIDIA Ion Platforms, which is one of the most interesting PC designs that we have seen in years.
The NVIDIA Ion Reference Platform is based on the Pico-ITX form factor. The Pico-ITX form factor was announced by VIA Technologies in January 2007, and as you can tell many other companies have adopted the standard since technology is shrinking and consumers are demanding smaller and sexier products in the netbook market.
The Pico-ITX form factor specifications call for the board to be 10 x 7.2 cm (3.9 x 2.8 in) and that is exactly what size the NVIDIA Ion board is. To get an idea of just how small the Pico-ITX form factor is you really need to place it next to an ATX motherboard, which is 305 mm wide by 244 mm deep (12″ x 9.6″). The NVIDIA Ion platform is dwarfed by today’s standard desktop motherboards, but at the same time still offers true-fidelity 7.1 HD audio and HDMI outputs that can do resolutions as high as 2560 x 1600!
With a sleek form factor like this it gives you a ton of options for what the ultra-small form factor chassis will look like, so let’s see what NVIDIA came up with for the working reference PC.
It is amazing that the Ion motherboard can fit in the palm of your hand, but the actual PC that it goes with will include a daughter board that you can see on the next page.