Atom is the latest breakthrough to be announced from Intel, and it sounds very promising if your in the market for small and portable.
Atom is a totally new design microprocessor from Intel designed for the mobile device and ultra-portable device market such as PDA’s, Handhelds and Ultra-Portable notebooks. Unlike most of the processors from Intel of late, this one has been designed from the ground up as a new technology, and not an alteration of something of the previous generation.
Using the new 45nm processor technology this new processor is only 25mm2 so were talking a seriously small processor. Not only are we talking small, but were also talking quick. According to the information on the Intel the processor is going to be available in a 1.1GHz version, and a 1.6GHz version although the site doesn’t make it clear which of the Atom or Atom Centrino products these speeds will be available in. According to the notes on the architecture of the chipset, it will be capable of speeds up to 1.8GHz which to my mind in a processor this small and power friendly is excellent.
On the subject of power consumption, this is where the Atom thrives. The processor is designed with the sole thought of power consumption, or rather the lack of. The figures from Intel state that the processor will use between 0.6 and 2.5 watts according to the customer requirement for the processor. I have a feeling that products closer to the 2.5 watt end of the scale because the product and solution developers will probably not be prepared to pay the premium for the lower power consumption, however 2.5 watts is still very nice when you compare this to the Core 2 Duo E6700 which under testing by [H] Enthusiast used 171 watts where as the AMD Athlon64 FX-62 used only 137. Compared to the power usage of both these cores though, the Atom really rocks the boat and will see excellent improvements in the ability to conserve battery for these new breed ultra-portable mobile devices which is an excellent plus being that Sony for example can already get 6 hours battery life out their TZ notebook. By using these cores along with other components designed for low power usage would allow devices using standard 4-cell batteries to get very good battery life and using a 6-cell battery could provide amazing life.
Considering the way technology seems to be moving at the moment it’s about more for less with the advent of cheap yet moderate specification notebooks and battery life is certainly something which is hot, so this is a good thing, however it’s a shame it seems to have come eithe slightly too late, or some people weren’t prepared to be early adopters. The new Asus Eee PC 900 has recently been announced as the 9″ version of the original Eee PC which is a great step forward from the original Eee PC, however it would have been very nice to see this running on the Atom core as opposed to an under-clocked existing Intel set. Hopefully Acer will use this new set in their new iteration of the Eee PC which will probably appear later this year as my guess.
The other reason I think this processor would be welcomed into market is the PDA and Smartphone market. Nearly all of these devices are based on the Intel XScale II processor which has been around now for some time, and whilst it is a proven and reliable set it is starting to show it’s age with the 200 and 400 MHz clock speeds seen in most devices not to mention the slower FSB and memory rates on it compared to the new Atom core. I would be really interested to see vendors like Dell in the Axim devices and especially HTC as a user of their products use this new core in their products. A smartphone with a 1.1GHz processor using this little power would be an excellent step in the market and would certainlly hammer home the fact the Windows Mobile powered device has far more to offer than the iPhone in the line of performance and durability although in my opinion it does that anyway even with a slow processor.