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Latest Intel netbook chipset needs Vista for boosted graphics

Solution simple: wait for Windows 7

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Windows Vista is coming to netbooks - well for those that want to take advantage of Intel's GN40 chipset and the graphical advantages it offers over the 945GSE found in most netbooks, it will.

The GN40 delivers faster 3D graphics and speedier HD video decoding than the 945GSE does, albeit at the cost of higher power consumption - 16.5W to 8W, including the contribution from Intel's 1.66GHz Atom N280 processor.

For that reason, Intel's pitching the N280-GN40 combo only at what it calls "enhanced media netbooks" rather than all of them.

The problem is that most netbooks ship with Windows XP pre-installed, but the extra performance offered by the GN40 is only available with Windows Vista, Chinese-language website HKPEC has discovered.

It just tested Asus' GN40-equipped Eee PC 1004DN - it's the one with the integrated optical drive - and found that while XP supports the DirectX Video Acceleration 1.0 API, to get the best out of the GN40 you need DXVA 2.0, which comes with Vista.

Given Vista's less-than-stellar performance on notebooks, let alone netbooks, this might seem to be a problem for punters seeking better HD playback from their mini laptops.

In fact, it may not matter too much. Windows 7 will address Vista's performance shortcoming - it's pre-release versions have been found to run rather nicely on many a current netbook - and it's expected to debut later this year. The Release Candidate is expected to arrive early next month.

The question is, will netbook vendors hold fire on GN40-based boxes until Windows 7 launches officially - or release them graphically limited by XP, or with Vista in the meantime? We shall see. ®

Recent Netbook Reviews
HP Mini 2140
Asus Eee PC 1000HE
Dell Inspiron Mini 12
Samsung NC10

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