updated 09:30 am EDT, Wed April 2, 2008
Intel Atom at Spring IDF
Intel at the spring version of its Intel Developer Forum today revealed more details of its Atom ultra-mobile processor line, uncovering both the full launch lineup as well as detailing the Controller Hub that forms the backbone of the Centrino Atom platform. The company had initially revealed just its standard 1.6GHz processor but now explains that there will be four additional processors; in the same power class, Intel also expects to ship 1.33GHz and now 1.86GHz versions; these will share the same 533MHz system bus and Hyperthreading technology as the 1.6GHz chip, which can replicate some of the speed benefits that would come with a second processor core.
These new processors will consume either 2W or 2.4W of energy in peak use and will cost $65 and $160 in batches of 1000, Intel says. The 1.6GHz chip itself is priced at $95. These higher-end processors are expected to ship primarily in very small or budget-focused computers, including the ASUS Eee PC 900 and ultra low-cost, slimline desktops.
Two very low-power processors will be part of the introduction, Intel says. Clocked at 800MHz and 1.1GHz, the new processors will run on a slower 400MHz system bus and drop Hyperthreading, but will consume as little as 0.65W in the case of the lower-clocked version; the reduced power will allow handheld devices such as ultra-mobile PCs and simpler, smaller Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs) to be ready in the near future. No production-ready models are known to exist, though prototypes have already been shown by Lenovo, LG, and OEM builders such as Compal. Both processors will cost $45 each and in the past were said to lead to devices that may cost well below UMPCs or very small notebooks.
All of these processors will also have technical capabilities closer to traditional notebooks through a central chipset known as the System Controller Hub. Besides integrating the processor with memory and peripherals, the hub is also said to be powerful enough for features that are normally impractical in very small systems: the Hub will include "advanced" 3D for the category and can even decode 720p or 1080i HD video as well as surround sound, according to the chipmaker. It can also recognize add-ons for wide-area wireless technologies such as 3G cellular Internet or Intel's own WiMAX.
The advancement of the hub in particular may prove essential for MIDs, which are intended to serve as a bridge between media-focused but limited portable media players and larger, more general UMPCs. Apple in particular is said to be targeting this midpoint with one or more products that may include a tablet-like device which would be capable of more than the iPod touch but less than full-size computers.