Breaking The ‘Next-Gen’ Netbook Platform Down Into ‘Real-World’ Info.

Updated on 19 November 2012 by

New information released by Intel today includes release date, sizing and power efficiency details. There’s still no information on the GPU and the CPU is largely unchanged.  Don’t expect major real-world improvements.

It seems like we’ve known about Pinetrail for a while but at least most of the details are being confirmed in the latest Intel Press Release now.

You’re going to see a lot of news about this over the next few weeks and an incredible amount of hype through netbook-related PR as companies combine this new platform with Windows 7 and a CES launch to try and sell you a completely new netbook experience that it likely to be similar to the last one.

N450overview

The new Atom N450 CPU with integrated GPU and memory controller runs at 1.66Ghz with 512K of Level 2 cache.  Memory bus speed goes up to 667 Mhz from 533Mhz but what does it really mean?

Power.

This is the keyword you’re likely to hear the most. Power means two things. 1) Power usage. 2) Processing power.  According to Intel, average (we assume platform) power usage has been reduced by 20% which means an improvement of 5% or less on a netbook. It’s a minor change. In terms of processing power, expect 10% improvements based on the new memory architecture and a slightly increased bus and clock speed.

Design.

The new Intel Atom netbook platform has been designed to reduce size, allow for easier thermal design and to reduce the cost. By moving from a three-chip solution to a two-chip solution and implementing the graphics core into the same die as the CPU the amount of silicon used is less. Silicon size is down by 60% according to Intel.  Not only will the cost of the platform be less, the cost of designing a netbook around the platform will be less. Designers will not have to include a fan and will have to worry less about passive cooling. Less space is required on the motherboard too.

Cost improvements are not likely to filter through to end-users at this stage so don’t expect any price drops.

HD video.

There is no support for hardware decoded video on the new Intel Atom Netbook Platform meaning that it doesn’t use the GMA500 GPU that we were expecting. Although details have not been confirmed, it is highly likely that the GPU will be the GMA3150 core as seen in some D510 CPU-based motherboard specifications. HD decoding was not included in the previous Intel netbook platform but as internet video becomes more important, we see this as a significant limiting factor for end users.

3D Support

Moving to a new GPU core means new capabilities. Details on the GMA3150 are very thin at the moment but real-world tests using 3Dmark06 indicate similar results as with the GMA950. Some basic support for DX10 is expected.

Target Market.

Indications are that Intel are being very careful to target the Netbook platform well away from their other laptop platforms. Marketing material talks about 7-10.2 screens and an ‘Internet’ focus. Netbook manufacturers are likely to ignore this though and we should see 10-12 inch devices with a range of features. The Broadcom BCM70012 HD video module and Nvidia ION GPU will be important options and likely to be used for up-selling.

Mobility.

With a TDP of 7W (down from around 14W including chipset) and a much smaller silicon size it should be possible to make some extremely thin and light mobile computers with this solution.  Menlow still retains better power (energy) characteristics and includes HD video support but the cost of the new netbook platform might make it interesting for some 7-10 inch mobile computing devices running Windows 7 or Moblin. The new platform won’t be interesting for MID development. Moorestown includes better integration and the new ‘power gating’ feature which is needed for always-on operation in the MID world.

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34 Comments For This Post

  1. UMPCPortal says:

    New article: Breaking The 'Next-Gen' Netbook Platform Down Into 'Real-World' Info. http://bit.ly/60vZ1X

  2. Steve 'Chippy' Paine says:

    RT @umpcportal: New article: Breaking The 'Next-Gen' Netbook Platform Down Into 'Real-World' Info. http://bit.ly/60vZ1X

  3. Alberto Fabiano says:

    RT @umpcportal: New article: Breaking The 'Next-Gen' Netbook Platform Down Into 'Real-World' Info. http://goo.gl/S8tA #netbook #umpc

  4. Neil says:

    Good article on the next generation Atom Thanks Chippy!! http://bit.ly/7XMtxz

  5. Mobile Ninja says:

    Breaking The ‘Next-Gen’ Netbook Platform Down Into ‘Real-World’ Info. http://bit.ly/8k5hRd
    #mobile

  6. rahul says:

    GPU is GMA 3150. Anandtech put up a review of a new Eee based on Pineview and they mention 3150.

  7. TWatcher says:

    I’m not at all surprised that pineview isn’t using SGX graphics, although I am disapointed. I called it that way in a comment to the Sept post that chippy did, where he cited his expectation to be GMA500 in pinetrail, which I quote below. Here’s hoping that Cedarview will be SGX graphics.

    “No, I’m saying that driver info I have seen indicates to me that GMA500 is not being used in pinetrail, Intel is instead using a derivative of its own in-house graphics. I’ have seen two drivers, one of them is specifically for Menlow and Moorestown, indicating to me that Moorestown using the same graphics as Menlow (maybe clocked quickly). The other driver I’ve seen is for Intel’s inhouse graphics, a driver for 3100,4000,4500 etc etc, which includes new definitions for “Pineview -G” and “Pineview -GM”. as an aside it also contains references for Clarksdale and Arrandale. It does not have any reference to Menlow or Moorestown. Conclusion would be that pinetrail is in the same family as Intel’s existing integrated graphics, and Moorestown is in the same family as Menlow.”

  8. Another guy says:

    Quite frankly, on the netbook or UMPC field the raw power doesnt matter that much because no-one uses those devices for CPU-heavy tasks (we all have our “productivity” computer at home). What we want to see on a netbook/UMPC is portability, battery life, light weight/size, 3G, etc.

    The current 1.6 Ghz Atom processors are fine for what we user our netbooks/UMPCs for: email, web browsing, light office tasks, blogging-on-the-move, etc.

  9. Another guy says:

    Quite frankly, on the netbook or UMPC field the raw power doesnt matter that much because no-one uses those devices for CPU-heavy tasks (we all have our “productivity” computer at home). What we want to see on a netbook/UMPC is portability, battery life, light weight/size, 3G, etc.

    The current 1.6 Ghz Atom processors are fine for what we user our netbooks/UMPCs for: email, web browsing, light office tasks, blogging-on-the-move, etc.

    Do we really need more CPU power on these mobility devices???

  10. a different guy says:

    Speak for yourself. I want more CPU power and H.264/VC-1 hardware acceleration in these 10 inch notebooks. This “good enough” attitude a lot of people have isn’t going to help the advancement of technology. Consumers should be pushing Intel to improve their products since AMD doesn’t seem to be doing it. I don’t like seeing technology stagnate.

  11. DavidC1 says:

    The Atom was built for the sole reason for low cost and low power. The Netbook versions are basically value versions of Atom, now think of that! They could have just used Core 2 and binned it heavily, but they didn’t. Obviously those who want faster chips get Celeron/Core 2 laptops.

    The “Last big upgrade” called Core 2 brought 20% increase in performance with 0-5% increase in performance over previous gen. 20% decrease in platform power(resulting in 25% more battery life) which is already pretty low and 10% increase is pretty much fantastic.

  12. bane says:

    It’s interesting that you say “we should want more power” rather than saying “I want to do X on a netbook and current chips aren’t powerful enough”. In most cases the core hardware technoogy is driven by expectations about having likely users. So the best way to incentivise Intel et al is to come up with some application that large numbers of people would definitely want to do on their netbooks (rather than a more expensive latop, and I guess that would be infeasible on a smartphone).

    Visual analysis/augmented reality is clearly one are that requires both more computing power and you want to be able oto do anywhere, anytime but those applications aren’t robust enough for prime-time yet. (These are applications where for latency reasons you can’t really offload the heavy-computation to a server over the internet, unlike say Google Goggles.)

  13. j says:

    Wow, the above 2 comments completely missed the point.

  14. bane says:

    Unfortunately I’ve been away over Xmas so have only just seen your reply.

    In what way does the above comment miss the point of what I was repling to? Technology companies are driven by expected market demand, they don’t invest millions of dollars “to avoid technology stagnating” without believing that there will be a be a reason to be buy the new products. And a lot of people, myself included, don’t see a point in buying an expensive processor if an old one will run the applications I want to run with as-near-as-damn-it the same perceived speed. And it seems like web-browsing, word processing, spreadsheets, etc, have reached that point. So rather than arguing that although CPU’s are good enough for the applications people currently run on netbooks but that computer companies should altruistically design higher performing chips “to avoid stagnation”, coming up with new computationally intensive things people would actually want to do on a netbook is more likely to lead to companies producing better performing chips. (As one of many examples, would we have such small, high capacity hard disks and flash memory if not for portable media players providing the reason people would need to buy (products containing) them? How many people upgrade their graphics card out of a sense of wanting general technological progress rather than because game X requires it?)

    The problem is that there no-one seems to be producing any compelling new ideas for “netbook applications”. These will be what drives hardware development.

  15. NobbyNobbs says:

    It`s a great disappointment – at least for me.
    I`m not talking about processing power but rather the graphics chipset. I`m doing fine with the cpu power, but the GMA950 just is terrible. The GMA500 has/ had problems with drivers and isn`t a 3d power horse either, but at least it speeds up video and consumes very little power.
    And as far as I know it is not (easily) possible to develop a chipset with integrated graphics like the nvidia ION for pinetrail (only 4 PCI-E lanes).

    It seems to me as if Intel wants to make netbooks less appealing. They have been surprised by the (ongoing) success of netbooks (remember the shortage of Atom-CPUs at the beginning) and don`t like that people buy netbooks instead of laptops. From an economic point of view this is totally understandable. Nevertheless …

    I just hope that AMD can (and wants to) profit from Intels shortcomings in the netbook market.

  16. animatio says:

    oh yea .. just saw this one:
    Intel calls NVIDIA ION “overkill” for netbooks
    http://www.liliputing.com/2009/12/intel-calls-nvidia-ion-overkill-for-netbooks.html

    and on the othher hand this one: Broadcom introduces next-gen Crystal HD video accelerator for netbooks
    http://www.liliputing.com/2009/12/broadcom-introduces-next-gen-crystal-hd-video-accelerator-for-netbooks.html

    all is said this way

  17. DavidC1 says:

    Cedarview will probably use 4500MHD.

    Pineview overall impression:
    -Performance is ~10% better, surprising as the integrated memory controller didn’t do much. I’m guessing the IMC is power optimized rather than performance
    -The Asus 1005PE achieves 590 minutes of battery life with a 63WHr battery with Anandtech’s review. That’s a 6.4W consumption and is on par/slightly better than Menlow
    -Pineview is basically “cheaper Menlow”

    The die is not an MCM, but full integrated, even the dual core versions. And Lincroft’s die is different from Pineview.

  18. Chippy says:

    I’m not 100% sold on the power improvement figures yet but the comparisons with the old 1005HA are quite convincing. 6.4W average is, indeed, impressive.

  19. DavidC1 says:

    30% reduction in TDP brought 20% reduction in power.

    Diamondville:
    2.5W CPU
    5.5W Chipset
    2.9-3.3W IOH

    Pine Trail:
    5.5W CPU
    1.5W Chipset

    8W vs 11W

    So on a Netbook which has a large 10.1 inch screen and platter HDD, the 3 main chips took something like 70% of the total power consumption.

    I think I made a slight mistake concluding most of Moorestown’s gains would have come from the lower idle power. See on that Netbook comparison, even if the TDP of the 3 main chips = 0W, it would still use 30% of the original power.

    See Moorestown doesn’t JUST integrate memory controller + graphics and uses a low power process, it will optimize the “misc” part of the platform, the last 30%. Similar battery life gains we had going from McCaslin to Menlow will very well be possible on even Windows using Moorestown.

  20. chippy says:

    Are you mixing TDP and average power usage here?

    You say: “on a Netbook which has a large 10.1 inch screen and platter HDD, the 3 main chips took something like 70% of the total power consumption.”

    I would argue that it’s much less as you are talking about a full use or TDP scenario.

    In normal use, wifi on, screen 50%, a good netbook averages 8W. (an exceptionally well-designed one is 6-7W)

    In this scenario:
    1W is screen.
    1W is radios.
    0.5W is memory and HDD.
    1W is Motherboard components (DC-DC etc) and loss.
    That leaves 4.5W for the silicon (in an 8W scenario)

    Silicon = about 55% of power drain when in use therefore a 20% improvement in the silicon platform can only equate to about 11% overall improvement – When in use.

    As the silicon is mostly at 10-20%, the effect is even less. I would argue that the improvements in power drain on the ASUS are not just attributable to silicon but overall design and component improvements.

    I agree that Moorestown will have the same problem as everyone else as they have to fight the ‘background’ screen wifi and mobo power requirements.

    Control of the ‘last 30%’ (more in my opinion) will only be possible through Intel’s ‘power gating’ which, in turn, is only enabled by Moblin on Moorestown.

    Interested in your thoughts on that DavidC1.

    Chippy.

  21. DavidC1 says:

    (Slight correction on the TDP figure, its 7W vs 11W)

    Anyway, no, I’m looking at Anandtech’s specific bench. There’s no other comparison so I’m basing it on that one. From there the Diamondville uses 8W and Pine Trail uses 6.4W. 20% lower power consumption for the system.

    The TDP is 36.3% reduction though(notice on previous post I mistakently thought it was 8W vs 11W, therefore 30%).

    Yes, now it becomes 55% of power, as 36.3% reduction in TDP = 20% power reduction.

    Chippy, you should read Core i7 Lynnfield reviews. The MCH integration reduced overall platform power noticeably. The effect is bigger on Pine Trail because the GMCH goes from 0.13u to 45nm, while on Lynnfield it goes from 65nm to 45nm.

    For Moorestown, the “Power Gating” won’t contribute everything for the last 30%. It will be a requirement for Smartphones, but look on MID versions.

    Moorestown has a 3rd chip called Brierstown. Remember how integrating chips together lowered platform power?

    Well, Brierstown integrates TPM/Clock/USB/Camera, etc. controllers that which some may be on the board all into one chip. Chip integration allows more reliable and faster power management, plus process technology will help in reducing power.

    On top of that, the display controller will use a lower power version called MIPI, DDR controller will go to LPDDR with a 32-bit interface. Whether they’ll get all those in the MID versions, we aren’t sure. But its not JUST power gating.

    Better than McCaslin to Menlow? That’s probably pushing it. Will they use MIPI/LPDDR/Brierstown which will lower power further? Very certainly.

    8-10 hour battery with a Viliv S5 form factor and maybe double the standby time(the true standby, not the Windows-nothing-is-turned-on standby)? Not too far from where we are at.

    Obviously they see Pine Trail as a value variant for Atom just like they did with Diamondville. WAY more work is being done on Lincroft and its fellows. ;)

  22. DavidC1 says:

    Correction on: ” will be a requirement for Smartphones, but look on MID versions.”

    It should read as: ”

    will be a requirement for Smartphones, but probably not on MID versions.

  23. Ken E Kaplan says:

    RT @chippy: RT @umpcportal: New article: Breaking The 'Next-Gen' Netbook Platform Down Into 'Real-World' Info. http://bit.ly/60vZ1X

  24. Blanche says:

    Breaking The 'Next-Gen' Netbook Platform Down Into 'Real-World … http://bit.ly/8qomC0

  25. iNestdia says:

    Breaking The 'Next-Gen' Netbook Platform Down Into 'Real-World … http://bit.ly/8qomC0

  26. LetMeGo says:

    i hate to admit it but overall i think Intel has the right mindset, with the direction Netbooks are going…

    CPU power is enough, better form factor (thinner/lighter/fanless), even longer battery life

    BUT, the only thing that urks me is that i do believe Intel is purposefully gimping the GPU.

    form factor is just so critical though, even in little laptops, & until uve owned several like me its hard to understand. i purchased a 1008HA Seashell many months ago & it is still easily 1 of the thinnest/lightest netbooks around while offering solid enough battery life. after using this laptop, i cringe when seeing 3lb.-ish much thicker netbooks that are trying to achieve 10-12hr. if you have never gone as thin & light as the 1008HA you probably shouldnt even bother, as everything else will seem inadequate. the only scenario i would go larger is if i REALLY needed 10hr+ battery. as of right now i’m holding out for the new 1008HA that will be more modular & improve battery life (hopefully fanless too).

  27. comment says:

    Doesn’t the US15W SCH Z5XX Atom have less than a 5 W TDP? The US15W combines the northbridge, southbridge and graphics chips in a single chip.

  28. chippy says:

    Yes. The ‘Menlow’ platform can be less than 5W TDP but it’s more expensive.

  29. bleek says:

    Z-series is also more crippled on the max RAM & external resolution.

    im hearing talk that the new N series is going to cripple resolution down to 1400 x 900 through VGA, any confirmation on this? this could be a HUGE issue for those people that like to dock to external monitors at home. also rumors the new architecture will all but lock out ION possibilities (by making it difficult & unfeasible to even bother)

    it looks more & more like Intel is trying to force full control over the Atom platform & move everybody else up to the more profitable CULV.

  30. JetRide says:

    using TDP too judge power consumption isnt the best method, TDP is “worse case scenario”. i would be much more interested in power usage of typical scenario’s.

    TDP is actually more valid for the form factors choices than battery life.

  31. chippy says:

    See my response to DavidC1 above

  32. DavidC1 says:

    It’s hard to take TDP at 100% face value, but with oddities like OSes being incompetent with power management, different laptops with different power management settings, it seems reasonably accurate.

    Especially on such a low end CPU as Atom where flash applications can jack up CPU usage.

    http://www.anandtech.com/mobile/showdoc.aspx?i=3636&p=3

    You can’t compare two different families like Atom and Core 2 with same TDP, but in same family, it can be compared using TDP.

    I think they are all important. Idle power, TDP and everything in between.

  33. guy says:

    I’d pay more for the Z-series Atoms. Hopefully the MID/UMPC manufacturers stay with the Z-series Atoms. You could get a 2 GHz CPU and H.264 video acceleration. So the lower TDP will hopefully force companies to use the US15W platform on future MIDs/UMPCs. Of course it’d be even better if Intel improves their chips.

  34. Me says:

    when i was looking for an laptop a while ago i turn away anything with intel IGP because it’s just too crappy for my needs. I do gaming every now and then and Intel IGP just don’t cut it. On my desktop I have no problem because power isn’t an issue but on a laptop that’s major to me so i had this dilemma on visual power or battery life. whoever, it all went away when i got the asus ul80vt with the switchable graphics and it’s thin, light, and i am suprised it is stuffed with a nvidia discrete card. you just tap the button to switch between intel IGP to save power or nvidia for the extra ooomph, i am using the laptop every day.

    Imagine if asus made a switchable graphics netbook with ION2.

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