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Benchmark Results: Power Consumption

Efficiency Analysis: Core i3 Trumps Atom On The Desktop
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This is interesting. Both Atom platforms are very similar and don't come with a plethora of add-on features. Meanwhile, the Core i3 solution comes with more connectivity and a WiFi module. We're amazed to see that it requires less idle power than the Atom 230 system. Intel’s D510MO, based on the Pineview Atom, is lower on idle power but not by much. We already found that it's possible to get even lower idle power consumption numbers, as you can see in our Maximum Efficiency: A 25W Performance PC Using Core i5 article. Clearly, Atom has no advantage whatsoever when it comes to low system power consumption.

The situation is entirely different if we put the test systems to work. The Atom's peak power increases by only a few watts (+4W for the Atom 230 and +5W for the Atom D510) while the Core i3 system requires more than 80W in full swing. In the context of low-cost PCs and the Atom in particular, this is certainly a lot, but let’s recall the performance levels. Core i3 was many times faster than Atom 230 or D510 in all benchmarks, but it doesn't require many times the power.

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  • 20 Hide
    HalfHuman , May 7, 2010 7:18 AM
    i could not really read the whole article seing that you one again use a 750watts psu to measure the power usage of a pc that at the plug draws around 30watts and in load 80watts. it means that actually you never use the psu at more than 10% load (factoring that you have 80watts at the wall). i guess you know that you get crap efficency doing this.
    I BEG YOU THG REVEWERS/EDITORS TO USE PROPER PSUS WHEN TESTING!
    there is quite a variety of mobos for atoms for which you get quite different features, power usage etc so it depends on the model you buy.
    and then there is price the factor. if you ask me the atom configurations are just too expensive. more than that i think that nobody in the right mind will use an atom to do something that requires even moderate power like photoshop, encoding, archiving of big files etc. you must have little expectations from it and limit yourself to browsing, doc editing, simple games, if configured correctly can even be a great htpc, seed box or a great nas solution.
    i do not think that comparing atom to nehalem makes much sense since they do not compete for the same markets. given how much expensive atom configurations are and if you expectations are as described above (lowe expectations), then it's probably a better idea to get a low end dual core from amd on intel and if power constraints are a must then one could undervolt and even underclock them.
  • 18 Hide
    amnotanoobie , May 7, 2010 6:48 AM
    Not really hard to remember:

    Atom
    - Internet surfing, 480p video (whether flash or regular video), document typing, or 24/7 torrents box/nas/server

    Core 2, Intel i series, AMD Phenom I and II
    - For everything else
  • 12 Hide
    gti88 , May 7, 2010 6:34 AM
    Great erticle. Very useful.
    But I always knew that Atom was way too slow for desktop.
    2-cores Atom is about as fast as my build which I made 8 years ago!
Other Comments
  • 9 Hide
    Kelavarus , May 7, 2010 6:25 AM
    None of this article was really surprising.

    While I don't really understand nettops, except maybe for a library or something (low cost solution, we have them in my local library), it seems to me it is the Atom netbook that is more popular, in which case, this (as you admitted, non-apples to apples) comparison hardly seems to serve a purpose. A lot of the point of the Atom is battery life, and the latest Asus models claim to get up to 14 hours, which I doubt you'll see anything near using a Core i3.

    Well written article, but it seems to be angled towards nettops which honestly, I don't know anyone who bought one. Doesn't mean no one did, but, are they that popular?
  • 4 Hide
    kiwimonk , May 7, 2010 6:27 AM
    I want a Zotac H55-ITX!!!!
  • 12 Hide
    gti88 , May 7, 2010 6:34 AM
    Great erticle. Very useful.
    But I always knew that Atom was way too slow for desktop.
    2-cores Atom is about as fast as my build which I made 8 years ago!
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , May 7, 2010 6:42 AM
    Im looking into setting up a cheap NAS and found the GIGABYTE GA-D510UD that supports 2 raid configs. The performance is no issue and the cost is very small compared to other options. For $500 I can put together a dual raid totaling 4 TB NAS, no way you can do that with anything else.
  • 3 Hide
    ta152h , May 7, 2010 6:47 AM
    It's an interesting review, and certainly worth value, but it ignores a lot of important considerations.

    For one, you're comparing a 32nm processor with a 45nm processor, so, we should keep in mind the Atom would have lower power, and be even cheaper if it were on the newest lithography.

    The Atom wasn't just made to be low power, it was also supposed to be low cost. It's a LOT less expensive than the i3, and a lot smaller, and cheaper to make.

    It's not really a surprise that a processor made primarily for low power/high efficiency, on a more advanced manufacturing process, is more efficient than a processor made to be very low power/small size. Efficiency per watt is, at best, a tertiary consideration, if that.

    The Pentium 4 was made to be fast with little regard to power (ironically, this made it slow since power use limited the clock speed dramatically), the Conroe/Penryn/Nehalem all only get features that add more performance than they do increase power use.

    This is expected behavior. The processor made primarily for efficiency is more efficient than the one made primarily for cost, on older manufacturing technology.

    Big question is though, why didn't you guys test the Nano as well? There are some new, very low power versions out. They were also made for efficiency, and they might be interesting.

    One more point. When you measure power use for running a job, the way you measure isn't wrong, but it's not always right either. Another way to do it would be to measure the power use at idle for the duration of time when the job is done. This would be more appropriate for situations where you had a server on all day, for example. So, both could be valid, depending upon the situation.
  • 18 Hide
    amnotanoobie , May 7, 2010 6:48 AM
    Not really hard to remember:

    Atom
    - Internet surfing, 480p video (whether flash or regular video), document typing, or 24/7 torrents box/nas/server

    Core 2, Intel i series, AMD Phenom I and II
    - For everything else
  • 0 Hide
    mianmian , May 7, 2010 7:13 AM
    Using desktop motherboard for Atom is unfair. To my opinion, the Atom system should use a netbook instead. That's where most of the Atoms are. In doing so, the Atom system power should be decreased significantly.
  • 0 Hide
    kartu , May 7, 2010 7:15 AM
    I don't get the point of comparing vastly superior all-round CPU to a low power niche chip.

    Is it to educate clueless customers? Didn't know they visit Tom's.
  • 20 Hide
    HalfHuman , May 7, 2010 7:18 AM
    i could not really read the whole article seing that you one again use a 750watts psu to measure the power usage of a pc that at the plug draws around 30watts and in load 80watts. it means that actually you never use the psu at more than 10% load (factoring that you have 80watts at the wall). i guess you know that you get crap efficency doing this.
    I BEG YOU THG REVEWERS/EDITORS TO USE PROPER PSUS WHEN TESTING!
    there is quite a variety of mobos for atoms for which you get quite different features, power usage etc so it depends on the model you buy.
    and then there is price the factor. if you ask me the atom configurations are just too expensive. more than that i think that nobody in the right mind will use an atom to do something that requires even moderate power like photoshop, encoding, archiving of big files etc. you must have little expectations from it and limit yourself to browsing, doc editing, simple games, if configured correctly can even be a great htpc, seed box or a great nas solution.
    i do not think that comparing atom to nehalem makes much sense since they do not compete for the same markets. given how much expensive atom configurations are and if you expectations are as described above (lowe expectations), then it's probably a better idea to get a low end dual core from amd on intel and if power constraints are a must then one could undervolt and even underclock them.
  • 2 Hide
    Stardude82 , May 7, 2010 9:09 AM
    Horrible efficiencies... My Dell 1012 with a N450 (equivalent to a 230) is only 13-14 Watts, under load with a 10" screen and idles at 10 Watts. Plus they can be had for $250 shipped if you are patient. Nettops are a horrible value compared to netbooks.

    Besides that, I'd like to how Athlon 3250e/2650e which populate Zinos stack up. Also, I don't think the E3300 is quite dead in these applications quite yet either.
  • -7 Hide
    abbadon_34 , May 7, 2010 9:36 AM
    Uhhhh...ATOM vs "Full Fledged CPU"...1) DUH (results). 2) "Full Fledged" NOT. i7 is full fledged.

    How about ATOM vs. AMD. Now THAT will be trust test, price et al.

    P.S. At least they are finally including the price of the chipset, as Intel cums for seconds on the chipset pricing, mispelling intended.
  • 0 Hide
    zodiacfml , May 7, 2010 10:08 AM
    The article could have been much more elaborate since it does not explain why atoms sell despite its poor efficiency and performance.
    I would like to show my reasons for getting a Pinetrail dual core
    Atom versus buying a very cheap LGA775 board to run an old Prescott Pentium4 whose board just died.
    1) just costs about $20 more but I get better performance in multitasking or threaded apps.
    2) no heatsink fan to run. makes the Pinetrail a quiet performer versus the screaming Prescott.
    3) energy efficiency especially in a room that needs AC cooling
    4) very small size (could fit mostly anywhere)

    Additionally, I don't expect people here in our home running those apps found here(it is me who does in my dual core desktop).
    They just check email and facebook. The most demanding tasks are playing flash games in facebook.
  • 1 Hide
    fwupow , May 7, 2010 10:14 AM
    I have a new Asus 1005pe with the advertised 14hr battery life. I just ran it in my truck for GPS all day (9 hours) with the screen at max-brite and a GPS receiver using power from a USB port. When I shut it down, it still had 18% battery life remaining. That's the beauty of the Intel Atom N450-soc (system-on-chip). For computing on-the-go, all-day batt life is da bomb. If you're building an always plugged-in desktop, you might as well go with as much horsepower as your budget allows and have it sleep/hibernate when not in use.
  • 3 Hide
    nobodyisyourfriend , May 7, 2010 10:33 AM
    what about using a pentium G6950 vs atom?
    lower price than i3 too.
    better comparison
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , May 7, 2010 10:57 AM
    I have build a HTPC/Living room desktop based on an Atom-Ion platform. It does what it's made for: 720p w/o hickups, surfing, watching pictures and even editing them ...

    As it is "always on" Low power is key and as it is in my living room, smal and sleek comes second. Therefore comparison with a i3 is not very relevant to me.
  • 0 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , May 7, 2010 12:27 PM
    Interesing article. It might not have been a fair comparison but it did give me some idea of the Atom's performance capabilities.
  • 2 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , May 7, 2010 1:05 PM
    A sheet with value comparison is missing. This would be interesting to see (overall system prices)
    Also, it could be really nice to see a calculation of how is needed for the new atom to be a more expensive option compared to a basic i3 (taken power consumption and investment price into account)
  • 5 Hide
    sstym , May 7, 2010 1:16 PM
    neiroatopelccit could be really nice to see a calculation of how is needed for the new atom to be a more expensive option compared to a basic i3 (taken power consumption and investment price into account)



    You're making a good point.
    Given their figures, if I use that computer for 5 hours a day at peak power and an additional 10 at idle, I get a 5*49+10*2 = 265 Wh difference per day.
    Over a month, that's roughly 8 KWh.
    I pay about 12.5 cents/KWh.
    Oh Joy. $1/month in additional power costs for the i3-530.
    Call me a spendthrift, I think it's negligible.
  • 0 Hide
    cknobman , May 7, 2010 1:31 PM
    What I would really like to see is a way to get the CULV processors in a desktop package as they offer very low power consumptions yet have all the architectural advantages of the Core series which handily trump the atom processors.

    Sure cost would be higher but I would still like to see the numbers. It has already been well proven that an extra $100-$200 in the laptop space for a CULV over a atom is well worth the investment.
  • 0 Hide
    obarthelemy , May 7, 2010 1:32 PM
    Idle power consumption is about the same for all systems. That makes i3 very interesting: it'll power up only when you need it.

    I'm surprised there no underclocking benchmarks. I know I do it.
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