Are graphics all you're looking for in a Netbook?

When Ion Netbooks finally hit stores, will they be missing link you've been looking for?

Will HD video make your Netbook? Nvidia

We're weeks away from the Windows 7 launch, which is bringing along with it a collection of souped-up laptops and Netbooks that have been waiting for Microsoft's new operating system as their coming-out party.

In particular, this means that Netbooks paired with Nvidia Ion GPUs are going to be on their way soon enough. We've heard about these devices endlessly in teases from Lenovo, HP, Samsung, Asus, and of course Nvidia. The mobile GPU is essentially a GeForce 9400M processor--the one that's in Apple's MacBook lineup--but rebranded for Netbooks. This sounds great on paper, but for Netbooks it's being paired with an Atom processor, not a Core 2 Duo.

In demos we've seen, it will enable Netbooks to play HD video and even some mainstream 3D games. The Netbooks that will get Ions will all largely have the same Intel Atom N-series processors that current Netbooks have, but will benefit from added processing in some instances on the GPU, as well as the graphics boost. At the prices some of these new Netbooks are claiming they'll sell for--$399, for instance--it sounds like a decent deal.

But is a graphics boost the missing link for you, the laptop consumer? Is the Ion in fact a way to solve any frustrations you may have had with Netbooks up until this point? Or are you looking for better CPUs, keyboards, or other features? A few months ago we guessed at what future Netbooks could bring, and graphics certainly loomed large. But will a video-friendly Netbook provide enough oomph to be anything more than a secondary computer, and will such a device begin to supplant video-savvy smartphones as a traveling companion of choice? On the other hand, is the growing trend of thin-and-light laptops with ULV non-Atom processors of more interest?

We ask because we wonder if 11.6-inch Ion-powered Netbooks will in fact be the Holy Grail of the holiday season, or are simply a clever marketing campaign. Once we get our hands on a few, we'll let you know soon enough.

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