Mobile Computing | News

Atom-Based Netbooks Go Dual-Core

Intel Atom N550 at a Glance
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Clock Speed: 1.5 GHz
Processing Cores: 2
Level-2 Cache: 2x 512 KB (2x)
Memory: 667 MHz single-channel DDR3 SDRAM, up to 2 GB
Power: 8.5 watts (thermal design power, or TDP)

In an effort to narrow the performance gap between low-end netbooks and higher-end laptops, Intel this week rolled out an all-new Atom processor sporting two processing cores and twice the level-2 cache of its single-core sibling. Several manufacturers have already announced new dual-core Atom-based netbooks that are expected to ship in the coming weeks.

Operating at 1.5 GHz, the Intel Atom N550 is built on the same 45 nm process as the single-core, 1.66 GHz Intel Atom N450 but offers twice the number of cores, twice the number of threads (four), and twice the level-2 cache (two 512 KB caches). It also adds support for single-channel DDR3 memory for up to 2 GB of 667 MHz SDRAM. (The N450 is limited to single-channel DDR2 memory but also supports up to 2 GB.) It includes the same integrated graphics as the N450: the Intel GMA 3150 chipset.

Although Intel didn't release any specific performance benchmarks for the N550 today, the company said the new processors will help netbooks better cope with the increasing demands of processor-intensive applications and technologies, such as gaming and Flash-based media. Battery life for systems built on the N550 is expected to be comparable to the batter life of units built around the single-core N450, according to the company. Thermal design power (TDP) for the new dual-core design is 8.5 watts, an Intel representative told us in an e-mail.

Netbooks sporting the new dual-core Atom processor are expected to begin appearing in the United States in September. Manufacturers that have committed to the processor include Acer, ASUS, Fujitsu, Lenovo, LG, Samsung, MSI, and Toshiba. (Intel indicated that some manufacturers would begin selling netbooks with the new chip today, but, as of this writing, none could be found in the United States.)

To date, some 70 million Atom netbook chips have been sold, according to information released by Intel today. The Atom processor debuted in 2008.

The Intel Atom processor supports MeeGo Linux and various flavors of Microsoft Windows operating systems, including XP, Vista, and 7 Starter and Home/Home Basic Editions. Further information about Atom processors can be found here.

About the Author

Executive Producer David Nagel heads up the editorial department for 1105 Media's education publications — which include two daily sites, a variety of newsletters and two monthly digital magazines covering technology in both K-12 and higher education.

A 21-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/profile/view?id=10390192 or follow him on Twitter at @THEJournalDave (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education). A selection of David Nagel's articles can be found on this site.


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