Intel is now shipping the N280 version of its popular Atom processor to OEMs for use in netbooks.
While the N280 doesn’t differ from the N270 in clock speed, with both running at 1.6 GHz, the newer chip benefits from being paired with the new GN40, which brings with it HD video acceleration.
As handy as netbooks have proven to be at casual web browsing and even the odd video, it does trip up when it comes to the more intensive multimedia features. The GN40 chipset adds hardware help for playback of 720p video, making the Atom N280 set probably a better companion now than a portable DVD player (particularly if you have high-def video encodes).
The Atom N280 itself has a lower thermal design power at 2 W compared to the N270 at 2.5 W, but with the beefier chipset, the N280 and GN40 TDP jumps to 16.5 W. The N270 with the N945GSE has a TDP of 11.8 W.
Of course, the upgraded N280 with the GN40, while better with videos, doesn’t really measure up to what Nvidia brings to the table with the Ion chipset. We took a look at the Nvidia Ion paired with the Atom in more of a nettop form, but such a chipset would be mighty impressive in a netbook.
For now, however, the Atom N280 and GN40 is the only available option for 720p video from a netbook -- and it’s not bad if you can get several movies' worth out of it from the Asus Eee 1000HE.