1.8Ghz Netbooks could tip the sales.

Posted on 10 December 2008 by

182009netbook Ben reported on the new MSI netbooks recently [Not your standard cookie-cutter specs] and highlighted that MSI will use the Z530 and Poulsbo chipset, the Menlow platform, originally designed for MIDs, and not the existing netbook platform. They aren’t the first netbook devices we’ve heard about that will use this platform as the Dell Mini 12 is already out there using it but it could be that we see a lot more of these as it offers an interesting marketing possibility at a time when netbook manufacturers are trying to make their products stand out from the crowd.

LaptopMag recently interviewed MSI and asked about their decision to use the Menlow platform. The answer gives us some clues.

Why would MSI use Menlow? Part of the answer comes from MSI in the LaptopMag interview:

“Now we are going to come out with the U110 and the U115. These are similar to the past systems in size and will look like the original Wind but they utilize the Intel Atom “Menlow” processor – the Atom Z530.

The U110 and the U115 will be out in late January.  The biggest difference between these two models is their battery life. With the U110, we will deliver 8 hours of computing time; and 10 hours with the U115. Both will use a 6-cell battery.”

So it looks like the 1.6Ghz Menlow platform is attractive because of battery life. Not surprising as it offers a lower idle power and lower in-use power. Battery life is a very important differentiator. Menlow’s hardware video decoding (1080p using H.264) can be used to differentiate too but here’s something that is more interesting and you probably won’t hear any product manager talk about it in these terms. The Menlow platform goes up to 1.8Ghz and CPU speed is about the best differentiator a marketing group could hope for. In netbook quantities, I wouldn’t expect any noticeable difference in the price either. $20 at the till maybe. When your average netbook customer is standing with a Saturday sales rep. in the local electronics store and has a choice between a a Samsung NC10 at 1.6Ghz and an MSI Wind at 1.8ghz, for the same price, which one is the customer more likely to go for?

If this process works, if sales figures indicate a preference for 1.8Ghz, expect either a clock boost on the N270 CPU (which is likely of course) or, for the higher-end of the netbook market and the ultra portable notebook market, a lot more action with Menlow in 2009. From where we are sitting, it looks like Menlow could eat into even more of the traditional laptop market but if it’s a net gain for Intel, they won’t complain!


Check out the interesting interview and watch out for comments about Linux, touchscreens and a temporary HDD set-up.

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  • Levi Littvay

    Isn’t the N270 1.8GHz too when running on max? Also, isn’t the Menlow limited to 1GB RAM? If you ask me, I’d go with the N270. But I could be considered an informed consumer. A lot of them out there are not. And the extra battery life and video decoding (if ever happens) are nice perks. So you are right, of course.

  • Will

    The Diamondville Atom N series CPUs and chipsets are a lot cheaper than the equivalent Menlow parts. The Atom Z540 CPU is $160 and that doesn’t even include the chipset! The N270 on the other hand is $44.

    I think Menlow was rumoured to be limited to 1GB but the US15W system hub does support up to 2GB:
    http://download.intel.com/design/chipsets/embedded/prodbrf/319545.pdf

    • Chippy

      But you’re not calculating in the economies of scale and the fact that the pricing doesnt actually reflect the product cost. Intel talked about sub $50 Menlow CPU+Chipsets at CeBIT.

      • Will

        The extremely low-power, low-end 800 MHz Silverthorne CPU (Atom Z500) is priced at $20 but IMO was done so to compete with cheap ARM SoCs.

        The prices I quoted (for quantities of 1000+) are from Intel’s pricelist so economies of scale isn’t the issue. Intel don’t price products based on development and production costs. That is simply bad business. I’m sure there is little or no difference in the production costs of Atom Z CPUs compared to the Atom N CPUs.

        Intel will set the price based on what the perceived value is (or what the competition is doing) and a lower-power, smaller-size, more highly integrated Menlow solution (Atom Z-series + US15W) is worth a lot more than the larger, far more power-hungry Atom N-series + 945GSE platform.

        With Atom N CPUs already cutting into sales of Intel’s more profitable Core 2 products, I don’t see Intel slashing prices on high-end Menlow parts anytime soon.

  • Doubery

    its not limited to 1GB RAM anymore, but i believe it’s still limited to PATA & 13×7 resolution (no more external monitors) which makes it worthless to me.

    Intel only seemed to “improve” the energy efficient design by cutting away even more features.

    • DavidC1

      Not to be nitpicky or anything Doubery, but having PATA and limited resolutions are some of the major reasons that the US15W Poulsbo chipset consumes such little power. Why do you think that the ARM-based smartphones feature no ATA of any sort??

  • tsog

    “But there are more options in this space and we have considered AMD as well and NVIDIA’s GeForce Atom platform. We have plans to deliver the latter but we can discuss that at a later date.”

    Would the 9400M be part of that GeForce Atom platform?

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