While an actual product has yet to reach the market, preview samples of the Nvidia Ion platform have started to hit a handful of sites perhaps in an effort to build interest among potential buyers. Both LaptopMag and Hot Hardware have been playing with the Ion reference design, which couples an Intel Atom CPU with the GeForce 9400 integrated graphics chipset, and found the performance very much lives up to the hype.

So how did it fare in tests? Well, since the system configuration used by reviewers varied from site to site, the benchmarks aren’t directly comparable, but overall Ion offered decent gaming performance and top-notch HD video playback capability. Relatively recent games such as Call of Duty and Left 4 Dead ran at less than ideal frame rates, though with all settings at their minimum, the results were in some cases playable and certainly much better than with the 945G-series chipset and GMA 950 graphics that Intel typically pairs with the Atom.

The platform's power draw is supposedly 12% higher than with the Intel alternative, though tests showed Ion used double the amount of power of a standard Atom netbook. However, Nvidia claims the reference system lacked all of the power-saving features actual Ion netbooks will have when they start hitting the market. In addition to the aforementioned reviews, you can read some more impressions at PC Perspective, PC World and The Tech Report.