Although Intel's Atom processor is a solid piece of silicon, many reviewers have called foul on its partner, the 945G series chipset. The 945G has been around for awhile, and mating it with a brand new processor meant to be energy efficient and green is like building a Toyota Prius that is heated by a wood-burning stove. Unfortunately, disapproval of the 945G chipset has not been met with much response from Intel.
But Nvidia can also build chipsets, and has recently announced a chipset built specifically for the Atom. Called the Ion, this chipset's major claim to fame is the inclusion of a Geforce 9400 mobile graphics processor. Considering the resolution of the screens used on netbooks, the 9400M is a very hardy graphical unit. In fact, when paired with an Atom, it is nearly overkill - many 3D applications, such as games, become limited by the processor long before the 9400M reaches its peak. Better yet, the Ion chipset also promises a more robust feature set, including up to twelve USB ports and a Gigabit Ethernet port.
The catch? Well, there is two. One is that the Ion uses somewhat more power than the 945G. The actual difference in watts is not large, but considering that many netbooks use 3-cell batteries, it may add up. Secondly, and more importantly, there are not any netbooks available at the time of this posting which use Ion. Nvidia has a good piece of hardware, but Intel is a powerful company. In fact, they've already begun a spin campaign against the Ion, undoubtedly aimed at reducing Ion's impact on the market.