Intel hits the Pine Trail with the next-gen Atom N450

Intel_atom It sure seems like the venerable Atom N-series, based on the Diamondville platform, has been around forever, and the same can be said of its sibling Z-series that finds itself on the Silverthorne platform. Well, if forever means about 18 months in the processor world, then the thriftiest Intel processor has had a good run, but of course all good things must come to an end.

Today, Intel officially took the wraps off its latest power-sipping marvel, the Pine Trail-based Atom N450, which combines the memory controller and integrated X3150 graphics right on the CPU. While still utilizing a 45nm manufacturing process to whittle the size down even further, power usage has dropped over 20% to about 5.5 watts total TDP, which also includes the new NM10 chipset. The new processor is running at 1.66GHz, and if that sounds familiar, it's because it is the identical clock speed of the previous N280.

Basically what all of this means is that we're about to see a slew of new netbook introductions in the next few weeks and at CES 2010. Since we don't cover netbooks a great deal here, the more interesting part for me is how the new N450 will be used as a replacement for the outgoing Atom Z-series in our favorite handheld devices from not only Fujitsu, but also Viliv and Sony.

It has long been realized that the Z-series devices have some serious performance issues, mainly due to poor driver implementation for the integrated GMA500 graphics. Hopefully Intel has learned from the past, and the same goes for the manufacturers who design the devices we use. Myself, I would gladly trade 20-25% of battery life for the same amount of performance increase.

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Even though initial reports around the web state that the N450's performance is pretty much identical to the older N270/N280, I still remain optimistic that at the very least, Adobe will see fit to include the X3150 graphics chipset in its final list of supported devices for Flash 10.1, which is currently available in beta form. Flash performance has been probably the biggest disappointment for most UMPC and MID users up to this point, with battery life being a close second.

As for the near future, I expect to see the smaller N450 in use instead of the Z-series on any upcoming 7-inch and under handhelds, and I believe the new platform will at the very least get us one step closer to the type of desktop experience we have been waiting for.

[Intel – Atom N450 Press Release]
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Chris King

Chris King is a former contributing editor at Pocketables.