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New Atom models target low-cost PCs

Jun 3, 2008 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 10 views

Intel has announced a second wave of Atom processors, targeting simple desktops and notebooks the chipmaker dubs “nettops” and “netbooks.” The Atom N270 and 230 processors are accompanied to market by matching 945GSE and 945GC chipsets and low cost SSDs (solid state drives).

Formerly code-named “Diamondville,” the N270 and 230 are identical architecturally to the Z-series Atom processors (“Silverthorne”), which targeted MIDs (mobile internet devices) and were announced in April. The only technical differences in the new Atoms are their size and power consumption.

Acer, the world's third-largest PC maker, is already showing off a Linux-compatible N270 Atom-based netbook called the Aspire One, due in the third quarter.

Where the Z-series Atoms come in a 13mm x 13mm package, the N270 and 230 — also produced using Intel's 45nm High-k manufacturing process — measure 22mm x 22mm. Both the N270 and 230 clock at 1.6GHZ, making them comparable in processing power to the earlier Z530. The new parts also share the Z530's 512K of second-level cache and 533MHz frontside bus. But, where the Z530 has a TDP of 2 Watts, the N270 has a 2.5 Watt TDP, and the 230 an even-more-hungry 4 Watts.

Why would anyone buy a larger processor that also consumes more power? One answer is pricing: The Z530 goes for $95, including its SCH companion chip, while the N270 and 230 cost $44 and $29, respectively. While the latter prices don't include chipsets (see below), the Diamondville parts are clearly more affordable.

In addition, the new Atoms are the clear choice for anyone who wants to run Windows Vista. The 945GSE and 945GC chipsets, also announced today, use Intel's Graphics Media Accelerator 950 core, making them compatible with Windows Vista Premium, including its “Aero Glass” interface.

N270 230
Mfg. tech 45nm 45nm
Freq. 1.6GHz 1.6GHz
Threading n/a 1 core 2 threads
Pwr. mgmt. C0 ~ C4 with Enhanced C-state C0, C1
TDP 2.5W 4.0W
Av. Pwr 0.6W (production target) n/a
Voltage Regulator IMVP6 VRD11
L1 cache 32KB instruction
24KB data
32KB instruction
24KB data
L2 cache 512KB 512KB
FSB clock 533MHz 533MHz
Streaming SIMD
FSB width 32-bit address n/a
Intel N270 and 230 (formerly “Diamondville”) specs
(For a similar table of Z-series specs, click here)

New Chipsets

The 945GSE chipset, expected to pair with the N270 in netbook duty, has the following additional features and benefits, according to Intel:

  • Intel Rapid Memory Power Management — allows all rows of memory to be in self-refresh during C3 state to reduce power consumption
  • Intel Smart 2D Display Technology — optimizes display frame buffer space, thus reducing memory reads, increasing system performance, and reducing power consumption
  • Intel Display Power Saving Technology — combines backlight image adaptation and backlight modulation, thereby enhancing the displayed image, reducing the power consumption, and maintaining the user's backlight brightness preference
  • Intel Automatic Display Brightness — adjusts backlighting level automatically according to surrounding ambient light
  • Intel Matrix Storage Manager — reduces the power consumption of the chipset and SATA drive

The 945GC is designed to match the 230 in nettops — i.e., low-cost desktops — and is therefore likely more power-hungry than the 945GSE. Intel provided no specifics, but touted several added features for the 945GC. The chipset includes high-definition audio, offering multiple audio streams and “jack re-tasking,” along with a PCI Express x1 interface. The latter will allow nettops to include ExpressCard and LPC interfaces (for serial, PS/2, and other common interfaces), the company says.

Separately, Intel today announced ultra-low-cost SSDs (solid-state disks) that will be marketed with the N270 and 230 chips as part of “Atom Centrino” reference designs.

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