Intel’s Atom processor is the processing brain inside most Netbook computers. While many conversations about Netbook computers focus on their small size, light weight and low price, a factor that commonly gets lost in the conversation is the netbook’s processor or CPU. With the release of their new N450 Atom processor Intel is changing that discussion a bit.
Most current netbooks use Intel’s N270, N280 or Z530 processors and are fine for basic Web surfing and e-mail or office tasks. In late December Intel officially announced the availability of the next generation of its popular Atom processors for Netbooks, the Atom N450. Major manufacturers are currently offering Netbook computers with this new version of the Atom.
Benefits for N450-based Netbook Computers
The new Atom N450 features integrated graphics built directly into the CPU, improved performance and a smaller, more energy- efficient design. Benefits for computers with the Atom N450 include:
- Longer battery life – the ASUS Eee PC 1005PE-P netbook claims to deliver up to 14 hours of battery life.
- Integrated graphics built directly onto the CPU.
- Smaller chip and chipset footprint due to increasing integration and smaller chip size.
- Less heat generated and a lower operating temperature allowing for Netbooks with no cooling fan.
- Lower production costs making the processor less expensive.
The Atom N450 runs at 1.66GHz, the same clock speed as the previous N280 version. While most initial tests indicate that the N450 delivers only a small improvement in processing power they also indicate a substantial improvement in power consumption with many N450-based netbook computers registering a battery life of 8 – 10 hours and some as high as 14 hours.
The increased integration found in the N450 is leading to a smaller footprint for the CPU and associated chipset as well as cooler running netbooks that don’t require the use of a cooling fan. Here is an interesting short YouTube video from Intel highlighting features of the new generation of Atom processors.
As noted in our previous posts about Netbook computers – Netbook Computer Primer and Netbook Computers for Students – these small, low-power, low-cost, lightweight, ultraportable computers are very popular with a wide range of consumers. All the major netbook manufacturers will be using the new N450 Atom processor in netbook computers including: Asus, Acer, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Lenovo, MSI, Samsung and Toshiba.
Intel has also announced new versions of the Atom for small-form-factor desktops. The Atom D410 is a single-core 1.66GHz chip and the Atom D510 is a dual-core 1.66GHz chip. Similar to the N450 both have very low power consumption and generate relatively small amounts of heat.
According to Intel, “One of the most significant features of the new platform is the integration of memory controller and graphics into the CPU, a first in the industry on x-86 chips. This translates into smaller and more compact system designs and longer battery life. The 1.66GHz chips are designed for small devices, low-power applications and built on the company’s 45nm high-k metal gate manufacturing process.”
Since Intel announced the first Atom processors for netbooks in June 2008, the market has expanded rapidly and according to Intel the company has shipped over 40 million Atom chips for netbooks. Intel also states that “In the same timeframe, netbooks ramped faster and sold more units than Apple’s iPhone or the Nintendo Wii.”
Here are a couple netbook computers using the Intel Atom N450 processor:
1. ASUS Eee PC Seashell 10.1-Inch Black Netbook – Up to 14 Hours of Battery Life
2. Acer 10.1-Inch Garnet Red Netbook – Up to 8 Hours of Battery Life