Is the Atom CPU stunting PC growth by lowering the minimum spec or is it the perfect processor for people who just want an internet gateway? That's the big topic of debate on this week's edition of the No BS Podcast. The gang tackles the usefulness of kitchen-based PCs, Intel's 32nm chip announcement, and field criticisms from readers who call in about our anti-deer remarks. We also discuss our predictions for the future of graphics technology and when we expect game visuals to reach photorealism. All that and Gordon's rant of the week in this week's episode!
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If you’re one of the many that’s looking to get your computer all bundled into one convenient package, MSI has got a treat for you.
The MSI NetOn AP1900 AIO PC, originally announced at CES 2009, is expected to go on sale later this month (though, no official word by MSI has been found). The NetOn is reported to feature an 18.5-inch WXGA LCG screen that will feature a native resolution of 1366x768. And, powering that screen will be a 1.6GHz Atom N270 CPU, Intel’s 945GSE chipset, integrated graphics, 1GB of DDR 2 RAM and a 160GB HDD.
It’s also rumored that this machine will come with Windows XP Home installed, but we have very good reason to doubt that.
Originally expected to show up in the second half of 2009, Intel has begun shipping its Atom N280 processor to PC makers several months ahead of schedule, says InfoWorld. Like its predecessor, the N270, the newest Atom also utilizes a single-core design and is intended for netbooks, but there's more than meets the eye than a simple clockspeed boost.
Unlike the N270, which was paired with the 945GSE chipset, the N280 + GN40 chipset combo brings high-definition content to netbooks. The hardware-based high definition video decoder makes it possible to view 720p HD videos, making the platform a bit more competitive with Nvidia's upcoming Ion, which brings 1080p content to the table.
Spec-wise, the N280 jogs along at 1.66GHz, a slightly faster pace than the N270's 1.6GHz clockspeed. The frontside bus also receives a bump to 667MHz (compared to 533MHz), and power consumption comes rated at 2.5W.
Intel did not say how much the new chip will cost, but it will be used in Asus $399 Eee PC 1000HE netbook.
CodaOctopus Colmek describes its new Stinger 553 rig as "a rugged tactical small form factor PC," but calling it a bomb shelter for your PC hardware would have been just as appropriate. Protected by an aluminum alloy chassis that's both corrosion and splash resistant, CodaOctopus Colmek says it built the Stinger 553 to MIL-STD-810F and MIL-STD-461E environmental standards and MIL-STD0404E power supply voltage standards. That means it can withstand freezing rain, high humidity, gunfire vibration, sand, dust, fungus, and a host of other unpleasantries.
On the inside sits an intel Atom processor, 2GB of RAM, 128GB SSD, and Windows XPe, WinCE, Linux, or VxWorks. Rounding out the spec sheet are 8x USB 2.0 ports, 4x SATA ports, 7x RS-232 serial ports, and more..
Citing un-named notebook makers, DigiTimes says Intel will launch its next generation Atom processor, currently codenamed Pineview, in the second half of 2009. The new chip will come in both single- and dual-core flavors, although the dual-core variant will only be used in nettops, DigiTimes says.
The new chip will be built using a 45nm manufacturing process with built-in Northbridge functions, such as an integrated memory controller and graphics. Intel is expected to pair the new chip with its upcoming Tiger Point Southbridge to create a new, lower cost netbook platform currently codenamed Pine Trail-M.
But not only will future netbooks cost less as a result of Pineview, but they might be smaller too. By integrating the Northbridge with the CPU, Pineview requires significantly less motherboard space by up to 60 percent, bringing the total down from 2,174mm squared (Atom N270 + 945GC) to 773mm squared. The new platform will also cut back the amount of PCB layers from six to four, while also reducing maximum TDP from 8W to 7W.
In other words, look for tomorrow's netbooks to be smaller, faster, consume less power, and easier on the wallet.
For most vendors, the goal of CES was to show off their new smaller and sleeker notebook lines featuring all sorts of tiny form-factors and energy efficient processors – but Lenovo has other plans. Lenovo’s newest piece of tech comes not as a portable, but as desktop. Instead of focusing on a netbook, they put their focus solely on a nettop.
Lenovo’s H200 will be featuring an Intel Atom 230 processor at its heart, handle 1GB of RAM standard and will pack a 160GB hard drive. It’s expected that a machine with a processor such as the Atom won’t be very readily accepted in the United States, but at a price point of $400 in today’s economy it does stand a pretty good chance of doing well.
Asus’s Eee PC kick-started the netbook craze and remains the brand most associated with the category. Early iterations were praised for their low-cost Linux-based architecture, but lately Asus has ratcheted up its product line to compete with higher-end netbooks, like the HP Mini-Note 2133 (http://tinyurl.com/5lu4un). The 901 runs on Intel’s Atom architecture at 1.6GHz and has 1GB of DDR2 RAM clocked at 533MHz.
2008 will defiantly go down in technology history as the year of the netbook. Ultra portable PC’s defied the economy and helped push sales of notebooks beyond that of desktop’s for the first time in history. Netbooks have been thoroughly reviewed here at Maximum PC (see December 2008’s issue) and it’s clear from the both the comments, and the activity in the forums that those who are holding out are doing so primarily for one of two reasons.
1.) The form factor is too small. 2.) The machines are underpowered.
Though not much can be done to address the first complaint, the second will likely become a moot point in 2009. This is the year we will start to see dual core and graphics accelerated netbooks go main stream. With the Intel Atom 330 already launched, the stakes will be raised considerably with new offerings from both VIA and AMD. As disappointing as this must be for AMD, it appears as though the VIA offering will be the strongest Intel competitor, but this may change closer to launch. The VIA 3000 family will be an X86-compatible processor based on its existing Nano 1000, and 2000 series platform. What promises to give VIA the edge over AMD however, is compatibility with the SSE4 instruction set. This will give them a substantial performance boost in many processor intensive tasks.
To be fair, little is yet known about AMD’s offering and more details are likely to be released at CES next week. What we do know is that two new processors under the code names Caspain and Consesus have been added to the company’s roadmap. We also know that despite the fact that AMD claims it has little interest in netbooks, these chips are the closest competitor to the Atom we can find from the AMD camp. One thing is certain, by late 2009 or early 2010, netbook shoppers are going to have a lot more choices. And as we all know competition will go a long way towards helping to drive down prices.
What would it take to make you consider a netbook?
Think Intel's Atom processor is only good for use in nettops and netbooks? So does Intel, who currently restricts the use of its low power processors to netbooks with up to 10.2-inch panels. But HP sees a bigger future for the Atom processor and is reportedly in discussions with Intel about using the chip maker's Atom CPU in mini-note PC models.
Asus and Acer lead the pack in netbook shipments and combined the two companies claim nearly 70 percent of the market, according to DisplaySearch. HP sits at a distant third with its Mini 1000 netbook, which managed to grab just 5.8 percent of the market in 2008. HP hopes to be a bigger player in the little notebook market by adding to its netbook line in 2009, including an 11.6-inch model in Q2 2009 and a 13.3-inch model in June 2009, DigiTimes says.
Negotiations between Intel and HP could reach a conclusion by the end of next month.
With the release of Intel's Core i7 lineup, it appeared Intel and Nvidia might be on the path to patching up their relationship as the two finally came to terms with licensing Nvidia's SLI technology on Intel's X58 chipset. But don't call them BFFs just yet.
Nvidia recently announced plans to release its Ion platform, a low power netbook solution which would pair the company's GeForce 9400M chipset with Intel's Atom processor. According to Nvidia, users would be able to play popular games on the Ion platform, like Call of Duty 4. The only problem is Intel doesn't appear to have any intention of sharing its Atom processor with Nvidia.
According to DigiTimes, an internal statement distributed to hardware makers reiterated Intel's stance that its Atom processors would only come bundled with the chip maker's 945GSE and 945GC chipsets. The news site also claims Intel indicated it has no plans to validate the Nvidia MCP79 chipset on Atom-based platforms, nor does it plan to partner with Nvidia to support nettops or netbooks.