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In Challenge to Intel, Nvidia Busts Out in Chromebook


NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Nvidia's (NVDA) presence in PCs is as a high-end supplier of GPUs (graphics processing units), which are typically used by gamers and scientific/industrial high-end users.

This GPU normally resides next to an Intel (INTC) CPU (central processing unit), making for the highest-performance computing combination.

>>Read More:4 Stocks Warren Buffett Is Selling in 2014

On lower-end PCs and tablets, there is typically no separate GPU from Nvidia involved. Intel supplies its own lower-end integrated graphics -- and Nvidia gets nothing.

Now we are seeing the first sign of Nvidia striking back with its own product for low-end PCs, and it arrives first in a 13-inch Chromebook made by Acer. But, first, a little background.

The first Chromebooks that arrived in 2010-2011 were based on Intel Atom CPUs. Frankly, they did not provide acceptable performance, as the basic web experience was not good for scrolling down long web pages, as well as for other tasks such as using Google's (GOOG) video calling.

In 2012, the Chromebook world saw the arrival of two new hardware platforms:

  1. Intel Pentium/Celeron: These finally brought Chromebook performance to a level that was more than acceptable. It became feasible to use a Chromebook as your only PC, for many people. The first one of these was made by Samsung (SSNLF) , but was later followed by Acer and then many others, including Toshiba (TOSBF) and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) .
  2. Samsung ARM: In October 2012, Samsung pioneered the ARM (ARM) -based Chromebook with its version that led the Amazon (AMZN) sales charts for many months that followed. The problem with this CPU platform was that it was almost as poorly performing as the original Intel Atom platforms from 2010-2011. However, it was fanless and it was cheap.

So far, in 2013 and 2014, two new platforms have hit the Chrome operating-system world:

  1. Intel moving up the high-performance stack with PCs based on the Core i5 and i3. The performance here is absolutely beautiful, although they cost well over $100 more than some of their lesser Chromebook counterparts using slower CPUs.
  2. Intel introducing its far-improved next-gen Atom-based CPU platform, available on the 13-inch Asus Chromebook that I tested recently.

My conclusion of this new higher-performing Atom-based Chromebook was that it now has adequate performance, somewhere along the lines of the first Samsung Pentium-based Chromebook from June 2012.

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