What conclusion should we draw about the Atom platform? We came away with a mixed impression. The processor itself is a success – it’s affordable, consumes very little power, and while its performance is weak, it’s sufficient for its target market (low-cost PCs intended for Web use). In addition, HyperThreading is a good feature and the platform is reactive. But for us the disappointment is the associated chipsets. Intel offers only two choices, and they’re open to criticism. The SCH Poulsbo seems efficient and autonomous, but it’s not viable in a standard PC due to its MID orientation (no SATA, for example), whereas the i945GC and i945GSE chipsets are usable in PCs, but they’re throwbacks – they lack functions, their performance with 3D is disastrous (whereas more and more applications are using it), and they consume significantly more power than the processor itself.
You get the feeling that Atom is only a trial balloon – one that’s a success from some points of view and a failure from others. Will computer manufacturers and the general public go for it? Undoubtedly, and for two reasons – the price and marketing. The platform will make it possible to offer computers at a very low price, and for now Atom has a good brand image. The public’s reasoning might proceed something like this:
"An Eee PC 900 for $450 (good) with a Celeron (not good) at 900 MHz (not good)"
“An Eee PC 901 for $450 (good) with an Atom (good) at 1.6 GHz (good)”
In other words, the Atom version will appeal more to the general public, even if in practice the difference is likely to be pretty slim.
The Intel Atom Platform
A paradoxical platform: The processor is a success (even if its performance is weak in absolute terms), whereas the associated chipsets are not worth their salt. Overall, the gains compared to older platforms remain slim, and we hope that Intel will be offering chipsets that are better suited in the future.
- The price: $29 for an Atom 230
- Low power consumption
- HyperThreading, a good feature on this processor
- Weak overall performance
- The chipsets
- Very poor 3D performances
- A mismatched platform