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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.

Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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 :)
    Reply
  • 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...
    Reply
  • little-ninja-man
    I just hop with this lower power usage we might see dual core atoms in netbooks
    Reply
  • 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!
    Reply
  • tacoslave
    AMD we need you!!!!! Show intel how low power cpus and great graphics are done!!
    Reply
  • tacoslave
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128342
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103706
    quad core plus micro atx = amd win
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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 %?
    Reply