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Intel unleashes dual-core Atom

Barely four months after its debut Intel’s pint-sized processor goes dual-core, with more L2 cache and faster memory. Get ready for some kick-arse netbooks..! 

If you think Intel’s first-gen Atom processors were impressive for their size and spec (and we certainly do), then the new Atom 330 should be twice as nice. It’s got the same 1.6GHz engine as the Atom 270, which is the chip of choice for netbooks such as the Asus Eee PC 1000, Acer Aspire One and Dell Inspiron Mini 9, but with two cores rather than one.

The move has been on Intel’s roadmap since day one says Anand Chandrasekher, Intel’s senior vice president and general manager for the company’s Ultra Mobility Group. “From an architectural standpoint, dual-core is a capability we built into Atom from the get-go” Chandrasekher told APCmag.com.

The Atom 330 gets a further leg-up from the presence of hyperthreading, which allows each core to run two simultaneous operations, and a doubling of L2 cache to 1MB over the 270’s 512KB to 1MB. The chip also supports 667MHz DDR2 memory compared to the slightly slower 533MHz DDR of the single-core Atom.

Intel’s intention is that the 330 will find its way into desktop systems, which it has dubbed as ‘nettops’ (a painful portmanteau of netbook and desktop). This category is currently supposed to be served by the single-core Atom 230, but manufacturers don’t always march to the chip-maker’s beat – Asus’ Eee Box uses the same Atom 270 as its Eee PC mini-note. At the other end of the scale, British box-builder Tranquil has already announced it will use the Atom 330 in a bookend-sized Windows Home Server system.

The one place Intel doesn’t want to see the Atom 330 is in netbooks. APCmag.com asked Anand Chandrasekher why anyone might need a dual-core netbook. “Hopefully you’ll never need one!” he replies with a hearty laugh. “The goal for Atom is to really go after small, very power-efficient devices that are not performance intensive. Does a netbook we really need to have all the performance and bells and whistles of a full-featured notebook? No”.

All the same, Chandrasekher knows that once a PC maker buys its chips it can do whatever it likes with them. Despite the relatively high 8 watt power draw of the Atom 330, compared to a mere 2 watts for the 270, it still sits well below the typical 35 watts for a mainstream notebook. And priced at US$43 per thousand (the 270 costs US$29 per thousand), it’s also Intel’s cheapest dual-core Intel processor.

So there’s nothing to stop manufacturers from using the Atom 330 as the powerplant for a new wave of potentially larger and more powerful netbooks. Asus president Jerry Shen has already announced the 330 will be dropped into a new flagship Eee PC netbook, and there are suggestions this model could even up-size the form factor to a 12 inch screen.

Given how well some netbooks can already run Windows Vista, albeit with a little tweaking, it’s not beyond the pale to suggest that the Atom 330 could even find its way into a budget notebook aimed at the day-to-day productivity market.

>> Source : apcmag


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