Acer hints at close release for Nvidia's Ion 2 platform

Nvidia's Ion 2 platform could be appear in netbooks by the end of March

Acer has spilled details hinting at an imminent release date for Nvidia's latest Ion 2 graphics platform, which could potentially turn netbooks into multimedia powerhouses.

Acer announced the Aspire One 532G netbook, which will include the Nvidia's Ion 2 graphics platform, the company said in a statement issued on Monday. Acer could be the first netbook vendor to announce support for Ion 2, for which Nvidia has not yet provided a firm release date.

Acer said the netbook would ship by the end of the first quarter, which hints at Ion 2 products appearing in the market by the end of March. Nvidia in December said the chipset would soon go into manufacturing and be launched in the first half of this year. Nvidia did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Ion 2 platform, which couples Nvidia's GeForce graphics core along with Intel's Atom netbook processor, promises better graphics capabilities than Intel's integrated graphics processor, which can support a maximum of 720p video.

The Acer netbook will run on an Intel N450 processor at 1.66GHz. It will include 512MB of dedicated video memory in the Ion 2 platform to support high-definition graphics. Pricing for the netbook was not immediately available.

Nvidia in late 2008 released the first version of the Ion platform, which was adopted by top PC makers like Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo for netbooks. HP and Dell also offered an netbook video accelerator from Broadcom that supported 1080p video.

The Ion platform last year triggered a war of words between Nvidia and Intel on the usage of netbooks. Intel maintained that low-cost netbooks were designed for basic activities like Web surfing and word processing, while Nvidia said that the devices could be repurposed at slightly higher prices with powerful graphics to support high-definition content. Intel partly argued that high-definition multimedia could sap a lot of netbook battery life because of the processing power required.

High-definition viewing of content on the Web is growing consistently, and the 532G netbook is geared to meet that trend, Acer said.

To enhance battery life, the Aspire One 532G will support both Intel's power-saving integrated graphics processor and Nvidia's Ion 2 graphics processor. Nvidia's Optimus technology will allow for intelligent and seamless transitions between the Ion GPU and the battery-saving integrated graphics chip inside Intel's N450 processor. That should help enhance the battery life of the device, Acer said.

The netbook will also include an HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) output to display high-definition content on television sets.

Acer said that the netbook offers up to 10 hours of battery life while using the device for Internet access. The company did not provide battery life on high-definition multimedia usage. The laptop comes with a 10.1-inch diagonal screen and measures 1 inch (2.54 centimeters) at its thinnest point and weighs around 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds). It will include Wi-Fi and 3G wireless communication capabilities will be available as an option.

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