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Does Intel's Dual-Core Atom Improve Efficiency?

Does Intel's Dual-Core Atom Improve Efficiency?

Intel’s low-power Atom processors have received an interesting upgrade, as a more attractive dual-core version has now been available for a few months. You may recall our shootout between an entry-level Core 2 system and a standard Atom 230 solution: Core 2 Nukes Atom on the Desktop. The Atom turned out to be truly low on power consumption, yet it lost to the Core 2 business machine when it came to power efficiency defined as performance per watt. Well, it’s time to look at the new dual-core Atom 330, which, in fact, could make a difference for low cost PCs.

There's Two Of Them...

Once again, Intel followed the approach that seems the most economical: it attached two Atom single-core CPUs onto a Socket 441 chip to create a dual-core Atom processor. This was the same method used with the Pentium D 900 series (65 nm Presler) and with the Core 2 Quad family (65 nm Kentsfield and 45 nm Yorkfield). It would certainly be possible to create a monolithic dual-core by creating a die that contains two chips, but this would also introduce the risk of lower product yields (e.g. the 90 nm Pentium D800 Smithfield). With the dual-core packaging system, Intel can select and validate chips to be used in single or dual configurations. The third approach—a unified dual-core processor—would require a lot of development, which isn’t appropriate for a cost effective product.

The Future Atom

The Atom processor has been available since the second quarter of 2008, and it will still be around until the end of this year, when it will be replaced by a more integrated solution called Pineview. This upcoming product cycle will integrate the processor with the chipset northbridge, resulting in a two-chip solution that is referred to as the Pine Trail-D platform. This means that both the graphics unit as well as the memory controller will be part of the next-generation Atom, starting in dual-core flavors, with single-core models following. Intel aims to reduce the total package size by 70% and the total thermal design power (TDP) by 50%.

Atom Now

Let’s start with a little summary of Atom processor and platform options, and quickly move on to our benchmark results. Since the Atom 230 and 330 will be around for almost one more year, the question of whether or not it makes sense to get a dual-core system is highly relevant for low budget PCs and undemanding applications. Can the Atom 330 dual-core claim the efficiency crown from entry-level Core 2 systems?

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  • 0 Hide
    waxdart , 5 February 2009 16:06
    I'll get one as soon as the full HD playback with on board graphics is done. When i want to heat the room and use some power I guess I could drop in a top of the range graphics card and get me some cpu limitied game play.
    I don't need a slow crap kiosk in my room right now. Could be handy as a little p2p downloader 24x7. But your government think p2p, even when its not copyrighted stuff so thats out.
  • 1 Hide
    ukctstrider , 5 February 2009 17:47
    I don't see why everyone is banging on about Core2Duo, particularly in the UK. The cheapest E7000 series is over £40 more expensive than a Brisbane 5600 which has the same TDP...
    I agree that Core2Duo are more powerful, but they simply aren't worth the ridiculous price increase over an AMD platform.
  • 1 Hide
    Reynod , 5 February 2009 18:32
    1. Shows no appreciable increase in performance for a second core.
    2. Has a chipset unworthy of a noob and incapable of HD.
    3. Is not cheap.

    I imagine an aweful lot of Netbook owners will be upset and these things will be on E-Bay by the bucketload soon enough.

    Might be ok for a firewall box ... or a home alarm system ... or something light industrial.

    Not for Windows XP or anything more complex.

    Sad really.

    Intel are trying to tell us this is what we need ... sounds a bit like Prescott to me ??

    Can't believe the reviewer is pumping this dog up as a positive ... must be scared (or getting paid) by Intel eh?
  • 0 Hide
    lilo , 6 February 2009 00:43
    Not for Windows XP or anything more complex.

    Even a single core Atom is almost as fast as anything around when XP came out, so XP runs very well on one to be sure.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , 6 February 2009 01:57
    Tom's quality is still dipping...what's with the typos and the incorrect information in the CPU comparison table? 508k of L2 in a C2D? Hyperthreading too? Also the dividing the benchmark scores by watt-hours - those benchmark already include the notion of time, so combining that score with watt-hours is just bad maths!
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , 6 February 2009 02:40
    The only atom processors I see available in oz are the 270. Where do they fit into the atom family? And I believe there is a 280 coming later this year.
    I don't think your reviews are anywhere near as thorough as they used to be.
  • 0 Hide
    aron311 , 6 February 2009 04:35
    Whats with the test setup mentioning an E8500 but the graphs in the review are all E7200??
  • 1 Hide
    aron311 , 6 February 2009 04:36
    Plus whats the actual power draw of both out of interest idle and max? TDP i think are the same...
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 6 February 2009 05:28
    Well after 10 years of visiting this website it's just been stripped from my favourites. I've been double dipping reviews with anandtech for the past 5 or so years but I've had enough. This site is just all junk now. See ya
  • 0 Hide
    psiboy , 6 February 2009 17:46
    The real conclusion should have been "Why bother with Atom at all for $80 more get a more efficient platform that will outlast it by years!"
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 6 February 2009 19:36
    Is it possible to get to know if Atom 330 is any better at Gigabit
    ethernet transfers? I remember when Tom's hardware tested single
    core Atom 230 that it could only do about 28MB/s - what's the speed
    that Atom 330 can achieve? Thank you.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 9 February 2009 17:49
    Don't forgot Nvidia Ion boards will be coming soon, then we'll hopefully (cross fingers) have HD on an Atom system.
  • 0 Hide
    nubie , 23 February 2009 23:15
    Oh for F*cks sake Toms.

    Did you even exercise your brains to find the ITX Core2 Conroe-L motherboard? D201GLY2 is its name.

    UNDERCLOCK the Core2 you freaking morons. A real test would be clock for clock.

    Buy an e1400 or a e5200 NOT the 7200 if you are comparing to the low power ATOM. The cost difference is only $20, NOT $80 (G31 $50, e1400 $50).

    Did you even try lowering the voltage on the e7200?

    One might think that Intel dictated this review to you, or you have some inane reason for recommending Atom, when it clearly is only 10 watts less than a CPU clocked nearly double with 3x the Cache. Use a little less voltage on the Core2 and you will find the exact same power usage with much improved performance.

    This isn't to negate the huge benefit Atom will see when it goes integrated (on package, not on-die) and loses the Gunning transistors.

    Intel is trying to keep Atom a novelty, they refuse to allow it a PCIe slot, or dual channel RAM.

    Meanwhile VIA has an ITX 2.0 initiative where the motherboards will have x16 PCIe slots onboard.