We saw this one coming before the weekend, and just as we expected, Intel today officially took the wraps off of its new Atom N470 processor.
"This new, faster Atom processor for netbooks has integrated graphics built directly into the CPU to help enable improved performance and smaller, more energy-efficient designs or the popular netbook category," Intel said.
No big surprises here, at least not in terms of technical specs. The new single-core chip runs at 1.83GHz and features 512KB of L2 cache and DDR2-667 support. According to Intel, expect to see all the major OEMs introduces systems built around this new chip in the coming months.
What does come as a surprise, however, is that some netbook makers are already looking beyond the N470. According to Liliputing.com, some netbooks on display at CeBIT this week are equipped with eve newer Atom parts, including the N455 and N475. There aren't a whole lot of details on these higher-numbered chips, but from what we can tell, they look to add features like DDR3 support and Broadcom rather than faster clockspeeds.
It’s no secret that Intel’s Atom chips are a bit on the slow side. While we certainly like the battery efficiency, a bit more power would be great. It appears Intel is willing to appease us, and the announcement may come on Monday. Intel is expected to introduce the Pine Trail based Atom N470, which will be nearly the same as the N450, but clocked at 1.83GHz instead of 1.66GHz. We also heard a while back that the N470 netbooks would be allowed double the memory of the N450 units. We'll have to wait until Monday to see if that's still the case. It’s not a lot, but with Atom right at the edge of usability, every little bit helps.
Atom chips have been in high demand ever since netbooks took the PC market by storm. Atom offers lower power consumption than the previous low-power solution, the Core 2 ULV, but lags behind in processing power because of it. The N450 was released late last year, and quickly found its way into consumer products. Intel expects an equally speedy adoption of the N470. No word on if you will pay much of a premium for the new Pine Trail chip.
There’s very little to differentiate one netbook from another these days. Manufacturers are basically just putting different enclosures around the same hardware. That’s largely a result of restrictions placed on netbook specs by Intel and Microsoft. With the upcoming Atom N470 (Pineview), the spec requirements will be lifted a bit, but they’ll still be there.
Currently, netbooks are limited to 1GB of RAM in most instances. When the N470 is released around March 2010 that limit will be raised to 2GB. Manufacturers will also be able to include a 32GB solid state drive if they so choose. Intel boldly pointed out that they could totally put Intel’s Moblin OS on them too… no pressure though.
While it’s nice to see some movement here, is it anywhere near enough? Don’t most users that want more RAM just add it anyway? So, good news, or just plain depressing?
To kick off the new year, Intel plans to start shipping its Atom N450 processor clocked at 1.66GHz, which is slightly faster than the 1.60GHz Atom N270. At $64, it's also slightly more expensive by a couple of Hamiltons.
But if you're holding out for a faster Atom chip, you may consider waiting until March when Intel starts selling its Atom N470 chip for $75. The upcoming part will kick things up a notch with a 1.86GHz clockspeed, or 200MHz faster than the N270. That's a pretty significant boost in the Atom world, even if the amount of cache (512KB) remains unchanged.
Both new chips will fit in the same FCBGA8 socket that current netbooks use. That means you can also expect some new desktop Atom chips in the pipeline, though details are scarce at the moment.