updated 11:10 am EDT, Tue June 1, 2010
New Intel Atom gives faster netbooks, tablets
Intel used its opportunity at the Computex show to provide a major upgrade to the Atom platform, starting with its first dual-core mobile Atom processors. The 1.6GHz N455 and 1.83GHz N475 have similar clock speeds to their ancestors but are much faster for netbooks or other portables with an OS that supports multiple cores. They don't use significantly more power than single-core Atoms, however, and could give an immediate speed boost without necessarily hurting battery life.
To show off the new Atom hardware, Intel has created a concept netbook design known as Canoe Lake: the design uses advanced (but unspecified) cooling to slim down to half an inch thick, or half the usual thickness of usual designs. The chip designer doesn't expect Canoe Lake to be a shipping product but sees it as a reference that other companies can use to trim their own future netbooks.
The N455 and N475 together should be in mass production today and will be in netbooks over the next several months, although when they arrive in finished products will depend on system builders.
Also mentioned during Intel's keynote was its promised tablet-oriented Atom. Oak Trail is the first system-on-a-chip Atom aimed at tablets and very thin netbook designs and should use about half as much power while still supporting hardware acceleration for HD video. It won't ship until 2011 but should support multiple operating systems at launch, including Android and Chrome OS as well as Windows 7 and Intel's MeeGo.
The formal plans for a tablet-ready Atom are crucial for Intel as it has been struggling to maintain relevancy in the field. Although one of the first to promote touch-only tablets with its invention of the mobile Internet device (MID) category, many if not most tablets shipped in 2010 will be based on ARM's architecture rather than Atom. ARM has usually been more power efficient and is the key to relatively thin devices like the iPad still managing 10 hours or more of real battery life. While it isn't using the latest Atom processor, the now uncertain Intel-based HP slate could have just five hours of use, even with a smaller screen and a thicker case.
Canoe Lake concept