HTPC Delay

Here I was, thinking that I would be going out to purchase my HTPC real soon, and then I read about potential desktops based on NVIDIA’s ION platform coming out in Q2. I was commenting to a friend the other day, that Intel should really come out with some good Atom products (read: HTPC) but NVIDIA is likely to beat them to it.

The NVIDIA ION platform is basically a PC platform that couples the Intel Atom processor with an NVIDIA chipset and graphics. The Achilles heel of the Intel platforms has been their main chipset and graphics. Essentially, the D945 chipset with GMA 950 graphics that it comes bundled with, truly sucks.

Now, with the ION, NVIDIA decided to couple in a 9400M series graphics processor. This is one of their latest generation graphics processors and is capable of video acceleration and cool OpenGL eye-candy. Needless to say, it will blow Intel’s chipset away, which is the reason why they have had some problems introducing their platform.

Intel does not like the idea of sharing. Intel likes the idea of owning everything. Presently, the only way to buy an Atom processor is to buy the whole shebang – motherboard, processor, chipsets – from Intel. Intel does not want to sell them individually.

However, according to the rumour, computer vendors will be negotiating with Intel individually, to buy Atom processors only. The rumour claims that desktops systems built using the ION platform should sell for under $300 but a lot of it depends on how willing Intel is to sell Atom processors.

Personally, I think that NVIDIA should just skirt the whole problem by making their own x86 processors. They have bought all the necessary technical expertise. The only kink is that they will be likely sued by Intel for their trouble. Alternatively, they could just merge with VIA and save both companies from ruin.

Seriously, both Intel and AMD have got processors, graphics and chipsets. Hence, they will both control entire platforms. NVIDIA was once the 800 tonne monster dubbed Graphzilla. It would be a shame to see them begging for scraps off Intel/AMD.

Anyway, due to the graphics performance of this system, it is likely that the first machines sold will be media-centric machines (read: HTPC). It would be great to have a Atom 330 processor coupled with the 9400M graphics and 2Gb of RAM.

On another note, I am planning to run XBMC or a derivative for the system software. While MythTV is very versatile, XBMC seems to be better suited to HTPC functions. I tried XBMC on a virtual machine the other day and it looked thoroughly swank.

Now, I only hope that the first machines will come out soon, and that they will be HTPC centric machines. This means that they should have 5.1 audio and SPDIF audio outputs along with HDMI video and RGB video outputs as well as a suitable DVD drive, network connection and USB ports.

Maybe that’s how the vendors will work it out with Intel – use Intel’s platform for netbooks and nettops while using NVIDIA’s platform for a whole slew of HTPC and other unique products. Afterall, the prototype board could fit in the palm of your hand. Therefore, it can be used to build all kinds of new and interesting applications.

Published by

Shawn Tan

Chip Doctor, Chartered/Professional Engineer, Entrepreneur, Law Graduate.

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