Intel’s Atom D510 And NM10 Express: Down The Pine Trail With D510MO

Conclusion

When I was younger, I was taught to make a list of pros and cons whenever there was an important decision to be made. That’d be overdramatizing the choice at hand here today, but there are still two sides to the compromise between performance and energy efficiency.

Let’s start with the good. The new Atom D510 on Intel’s D510MO motherboard uses less power than the platform that preceded it. As a result, it doesn’t require active cooling. The board itself is mini-ITX, but its thermal characteristics allow it to fit in one of the smallest enclosures I’ve ever had sitting on my test bench.

I didn’t spend much time in Moblin, but I tooled around for an evening to get to know the operating system better, finding it to be both stable and responsive. Would I switch over permanently? Decidedly not (at least not until Adam Overa finishes his Definitive Linux Software Roundup). Fortunately, I was impressed with how snappy the platform felt in Windows 7 versus previous experiments with Atom and beta/release candidates of the operating system. Insofar as Web browsing and word processing are concerned, you’ll actually get very reasonable performance.

But it’s hard to limit folks buying technology—whether they’re gamers or grandparents—so severely. Basic usage beyond simply turning your machine on and off, from an iTunes conversion to using WinRAR for file compression, hits Atom a lot harder than Intel’s more power-hungry desktop designs. In the process of conserving energy, you wait a lot longer for tasks to finish. To compound the conundrum, while you could at least play a bit of Left 4 Dead or World of Warcraft on an Atom/Ion machine, Intel’s GMA 3150 comes up short on features and performance, leaving the integrated graphics almost worthless in 3D.

So, while Pine Trail does a solid job of showcasing some of the architectural elements that Atom needs in order to be more successful in netbooks, mobile Internet devices, and the ARM-dominated consumer electronics market, it’s probably not the platform you’re going to want in a capable desktop PC...unless, of course, you're among the legion of recently connected to the Web. In that case, the $75 price tag Intel plans to ask for its D510MO motherboard and Atom D510 processor is going to look a lot more attractive than the Ion- or 730i-based platforms priced twice as high.

This isn’t where Intel intends to leave Atom. The integration, the move from a three-chip to two-chip platform, the development of WiFi/WiMAX networking controllers—they’re all part of a grander scheme that culminates in Moorsetown: the Lincroft CPU, Langwell chipset, and Evans Peak wireless technology. That’s where we’re really looking forward to seeing the design decisions Intel’s engineers made in Pine Trail make the most sense.

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57 comments
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  • Anonymous
    It certainly is an improvement over the weak hearted Atom but I was expecting a bit more bang for the CPU's capabilities. Hopefully this will make Mini-ITX boards cheaper and more readily available for small servers and back up applications.
    2
  • scook9
    My dad was looking at netbooks because he wanted something portable. What he ended up buying was the Dell Inspiron Mini 11z (not normally an inspiron fan). It has a Pentium Dual Core and the GM45 chipset (with HDMI output not VGA). This little 11" notebook gets over 6 hours of battery life and will run circles around either generation of atom processors and their chipsets/graphics. Yes the 11z did cost more than the other netbooks, but you got alot more for it, something to think about :)
    7
  • matt87_50
    wow, thats pretty terrible, one wonders how much better that new cpu integrated graphics is than the old chip set integrated? as basic as the ion system is, you can do anything with it, media center decoding HD, playing a couple of games, and as a file server, all with the lowest power consumption, this new one seems like its only good for the latter, and its only 3W less power.

    however, a file server / NAS alternative with the lowest possible power consumption is exactly what I'm after, so maybe its perfect for me, but I'd probably still go ION just because of the flexibility it offers in the future, should I get a new file server to replace it.

    as for netbooks. If its a computer, I wanna be able to play games on it, and lets not forget about flash going 3D and hardware accelerated, I'd still go ION.

    honestly, I wonder how they could make a GPU that crap in this day and age, the one in the iPhone and droid would be more powerful...
    4
  • little-ninja-man
    I just hop with this lower power usage we might see dual core atoms in netbooks
    -3
  • liquidsnake718
    I guess its not bad for beginners. I also have a netbook as my 3rd option.... I am rather enjoying the portability and functionality. As a HTCP or mini media center this sounds interesting for beginners that dont know how to build a PC... its almost plug and play..... this is a good option for them. I would prefer to get a mini-ITX board with at least a core 2 duo and build from there...... but then again, a PS2 is currently the king of this realm and you cannot compare as it has an HDMI, Great games, blu-ray, wifi, and everything one would need in this segment. Sorry the Cell is still far superior in this field!
    -1
  • tacoslave
    AMD we need you!!!!! Show intel how low power cpus and great graphics are done!!
    3
  • djiezes
    Lack of HDMI, DVI or hardware accelerated decoding for MPEG4, x264 or h264 really does not make sense for a CPU/chipset that orients itself towards the desktop.
    Originally I thought this new chip might've made sense for htpc use. ION still beats it & ION2 is coming soon. An ordinary low powered desktop CPU for htpc use still makes more sense. AMDs Athlon X2 240E for example (45W) or maybe an Intel Pentium E3200 or alike.
    0
  • djiezes
    Lack of HDMI, DVI or hardware accelerated decoding for MPEG4, x264 or h264 really does not make sense for a CPU/chipset that orients itself towards the desktop.
    Originally I thought this new chip might've made sense for htpc use. ION still beats it & ION2 is coming soon. An ordinary low powered desktop CPU for htpc use still makes more sense. AMDs Athlon X2 240E for example (45W) or maybe an Intel Pentium E3200 or alike.
    0
  • yankeeDDL
    I have a question regarding the power efficiency. We see that in most tasks the Atoms are about 2X slower than the Pentium, and it seems to consume about 3~3,5X less under load.
    I wonder if a real/fair comparison of power consumption should be made differently.
    For example: if I watch a DVD on an Atom I need, say, 100% CPU, while on a Pentium I will need only 50% of it.
    So I will have the Atom burning power under full load vs 50% of the Pentium.

    In other words: the Pentium is much more powerful, so it does not need to run full speed to do the same.

    So, is there really an advantage in the Atom? Can you get the power/performance ratio of an Atom by simply underclocking a Pentium by few %?
    1
  • yankeeDDL
    I have a question regarding the power efficiency. We see that in most tasks the Atoms are about 2X slower than the Pentium, and it seems to consume about 3~3,5X less under load.
    I wonder if a real/fair comparison of power consumption should be made differently.
    For example: if I watch a DVD on an Atom I need, say, 100% CPU, while on a Pentium I will need only 50% of it.
    So I will have the Atom burning power under full load vs 50% of the Pentium.

    In other words: the Pentium is much more powerful, so it does not need to run full speed to do the same.

    So, is there really an advantage in the Atom? Can you get the power/performance ratio of an Atom by simply underclocking a Pentium by few %?
    -7
  • Ciuy
    lol this sucks, Intel did a crappy job. Atom sucks
    -7
  • huron
    I guess I expected more from them, especially considering they know what the complaints are against the current platform, and know the strengths of ion.

    It feels like Intel quite get it right...again
    0
  • fortmccubble
    I don't understand the nature of these pluses and minuses for rating... who hates these questions so much?
    -1
  • masterasia
    I don't see any big improvement. The Atom still sucks and should only be available in third world countries like how it was intended or be used just for surfing the Internet and light word processing, nothing more.
    -3
  • intelliclint
    The new intergrted graphics should have supported DX 11 or atleast 10 and include play back of h.264 or VC-1 acceleration, as well as 8 pipes. These fetures aren't aimed at gaming but the systems target audience as web browsers, flash, and silverlight are soon going to support graphics acceleration.

    Any idea if the intergrated graphics can be expanded using something like a hybrid or bypass option so nVidia can give us a real chipset?
    9
  • rembo666
    I don't understand all the negative comments. Atom has always been about the cheapest way to get "good enough" performance to run a web browser. No less, no more. If you want to do more than that, buy a platform with a proper super-scalar CPU.
    3
  • dealcorn
    The graphics discussion is accurate, but misses the mark. Ebay says I can buy Zotac ION-ITX-A-U with D330 for $167 versus about $70 for an Intel D945GCLF2D and I speculate that the D510NM will sell volumes at less than $80. Populate one of the PCIe lanes with a Broadcom Crystal HD Enhanced Media Accelerator (under $25) and you get ”a single-stream HD H.264/VC-1/WMV/MPEG-2 video decoder solution capable of full HD real-time decoding supporting Windows XP, Windows® 7 and the Linux® OS environments.” I will add a cheap PCIE tv capture card for analog signals so I need hardware assisted MPEG encoding for my headless HTPC server. Because I care about graphics, the Intel platform looks like a 37% savings out of pocket and daily energy cost savings to boot. Yes, the D510NM is a nothing release except that it blows away the competition in multiple market segments. Some relevant performance and energy use testing might be helpful.
    1
  • dealcorn
    The graphics discussion is accurate, but misses the mark. Ebay says I can buy Zotac ION-ITX-A-U with D330 for $167 versus about $70 for an Intel D945GCLF and I speculate that the D510NM will sell volumes at less than $80. Populate one of the PCIe lanes with a Broadcom Crystal HD Enhanced Media Accelerator (under $25) and you get ”a single-stream HD H.264/VC-1/WMV/MPEG-2 video decoder solution capable of full HD real-time decoding supporting Windows XP, Windows® 7 and the Linux® OS environments.” I will add a cheap PCIE tv capture card for analog signals so I need hardware assisted MPEG encoding for my headless HTPC server. Because I care about graphics, the Intel platform looks like a 37% savings out of pocket and daily energy cost savings to boot. Yes, the D510NM is a nothing release except that it blows away the competition in multiple market segments. Some relevant performance and energy use testing might be helpful.
    -5
  • bounty
    The question is what does "good enough" mean to you. A 486 can do word processing and web browsing (with proper OS and software.) It can't really do flash stuff, but neither can Atom + intel chipset. Now where did I leave my Cyrix 5x86?
    2