Acer Touts Tiny PC Power From United Ion, Atom

Acer AspireRevo with Ion and Atom

Acer America today launched a number of new PCs, among them the Acer AspireRevo — the first PC from a major PC vendor using both nVidia’s Ion graphics processor and uniting it with the Intel Atom processor.

The Ion, which makes its first debut today in the AspireRevo, is a rebranding of the GeForce 9400M GPU, the same processor used in Apple’s new MacBook notebooks and iMac desktops. With the addition of the Ion, nVidia (NASDAQ: NVDA) is claiming the tiny AspireRevo can provide a gaming experience comparable to a desktop computer.

Even bolder, Acer is shipping the AspireRevo with Windows Vista Basic or Premium, depending on configuration. The computer, about the size of a hardcover book, can take up to 4GB of memory — but is it a stretch to put resource-heavy Vista on a “nettop,” the desktop equivalent of a low-cost, low-power netbook?

“A lot of the positioning of [Intel’s] current nettop products is positioning around deficiencies in their chipset,” David Ragones, nVidia’s product manager for Ion, said during a conference call today. “We’re of the opinion the Atom is good enough performance, and when you pair it with Ion, you get a good experience.”

The AspireRevo has six USB ports, a four-in-one card reader, and VGA, HDMI and eSATA ports, but no DVI port. Acer is targeting home users who want to put the PC in places the old PC wouldn’t fit.

“The AspireRevo is small and quiet enough to go anywhere, yet big enough to handle all the needs of your digital lifestyle,” Gianpiero Morbello, corporate vice president of marketing for Acer, said in a statement. “It’s perfectly suited for the living room, because nVidia ION provides a brilliant graphics experience with digital photos, watching video, and playing family-friendly games.”

The AspireRevo is about one liter in volume, making it about 1/30th the size of a traditional desktop. It uses one-quarter of the power of a traditional desktop, but thanks to the Ion processor, can output 1080p high definition video, the companies said.

“The traditional desktop PC has been hot, noisy and belonged under your desk,” Ragones said. “With the AspireRevo, we think we’re disrupting the market… We believe this will disrupt the market as much as netbooks disrupted the market last year.”

Acer did not disclose pricing, but nVidia said the AspireRevo will sell for under $299. In addition to Acer, nVidia said it has other design wins in the works, including barebones systems, so the white-box market will eventually begin selling Atom/Ion-based combinations soon.

Semiconductor analyst Nathan Brookwood of Insight 64 questions whether Vista can run even on an Ion. “You can probably run Vista on a 486 with enough memory. The question is will the performance be good enough to satisfy users?” he told

Acer will support Windows 7 when it ships, and that should run better on an Atom system, Brookwood said. “Windows 7 puts less of a strain on system resources than Vista, so even things that might be sluggish with Vista should run pretty snappily on Windows 7,” he said.

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