Just when we were ready to accept netbooks' stuttery HD video playback, along come Nvidia and Lenovo to change our expectations. The IdeaPad S12, arriving in the US in August, will be the first netbook sporting discrete graphics from the Nvidia Ion processor.
With power similar to the 9400M chipset already in Apple's 13-inch MacBooks, Ion netbooks promise 'Full HD' video output and credible gaming performance -- not that we'd want to inflict Crysis on it anytime soon. According to Nvidia, however, games such as Spore, Call of Duty 4, Portal and World of Warcraft will all be very playable.
The price is right, too -- $499 (£315) for the Ion-packing S12, with a 12.1-inch, 1,280x800-pixel screen and Atom N270 processor. For 50 bucks less, an Ion-free S12 can also be yours (though we don't know why you'd possibly want that).
The Ion claims a 10x performance boost on existing netbook integrated graphics with "nearly identical" power consumption. HD H264, VC-1 and MPEG-2 "won't be a problem," says Nvidia. Do we dare believe?
Available in white or black, the 29mm-thick, 1.7kg S12 has a six-cell battery, 1 GB of DDR2 RAM, a 160GB hard drive, Windows XP Home, a 1.3-megapixel webcam (stop us if this sounds familiar) and 802.11 b/g wireless.
Other notables: the Ion model sports an HDMI port so you can connect to an HDTV. Both versions offer an ExpressCard slot, three USB 2.0 ports, a multitouch trackpad, a full-size keyboard, and Lenovo's Quick Start, VeriFace and OneKey Rescue System for making backups.
For the price and the size, is this an ideal gaming netbook? Or is it, in fact, just a variation on 12-inch laptops? We're not even sure it matters, because for the price, it sounds like an excellent proposition.
Update: Argh! Lenovo has been in touch to tell us the European version of the S12 will not have the option of Nvidia Ion graphics. Negating the whole point of the thing. The Ion-less S12 will retail in the UK for £349.