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Atom Benchmarked: 4W Of Performance

Intel Atom 230 At 1.60 GHz With Hyper-Threading

Intel’s Atom processor is currently the subject of much discussion. It’s positioned as an energy saving wonder, but also designed to act as an all-purpose solution. The processor gets away from complex architectures and large level two caches and closer to slimmed down energy saving CPUs tailored to the specific job they are intended to do.

A year ago at Intel’s Developer Forum, the company introduced its 45 nm Atom processor under the code name Silverthorne. The Atom processor cannot be purchased on its own, and until recently was only available as a complete solution in a notebook or UMPC. But Intel is now changing this and offering the Atom processor with an embedded board for the desktop market. The new code name is Diamondville.

The actual Atom processor is, with a die size of just 25 mm², absolutely tiny when compared to a Core 2 Duo at 143 mm². And the number of transistors - 47 million - is low compared to the Core 2 Duo, which has 291 million. But this is the only way the Atom CPU is able to manage the sensationally low energy consumption of just 4 watts. The chip yield during manufacturing is also very high thanks to the tiny format ; Intel can theoretically get up to 2,500 Atom processors from a single 300 mm wafer.

The Atom 230 (Diamondville) processor differs from the Silverthorne model. It does not use an energy saving mobile chipset, but rather a cheaper desktop chip set. This does, however, have a dual channel memory interface, enhancing performance. But the Atom 230 must also manage without the SpeedStep energy saving function - not like that’s a problem for the efficient CPU.

We tested the ECS 945GCT-D embedded board with a 1.60 GHz Atom 230 processor. The energy consumption of the overall system came in at just 40.5 watts, which sets a new record in our test lab. The speed of the Atom platform turns out to be sufficient for surfing the Internet and playing DVDs, but you need to employ the right software in order to use the unit sensibly. The use of Hyper-Threading technology means that the speed of the tiny Atom processor is effectively increased by up to 37%.

There are currently three different types of Atom processor available : the Z5 series for Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs), the N270 for cheaper notebooks (Netbooks) and the 230 for embedded desktop boards (Nettops).

Model Clock RateCacheFSBPlatform
Atom 2301.60 GHz512 kB533 MHzNettops
Atom N2701.60 GHz512 kB533 MHzNetbooks
Model Clock RateCacheFSBPlatform
Atom Z5401.86 GHz512 kB533 MHzMID
Atom Z5301.60 GHz512 kB533 MHzMID
Atom Z5201.33 GHz512 kB533 MHzMID
Atom Z5101.10 GHz512 kB400 MHzMID
Atom Z500800 MHz512 kB400 MHzMID