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Intel Atom CPU Review

Conclusion

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)"

or

“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.

Pros

  • The price: $29 for an Atom 230
  • Low power consumption
  • HyperThreading, a good feature on this processor

Cons

  • Weak overall performance
  • The chipsets
  • Very poor 3D performances
  • A mismatched platform
  • anonymous x
    wow, 107 on 3D mark06
    Reply
  • joefriday
    Celerons have significantly lower frequencies than Atom? umm...no. Only the ULV celeron M has a lower freqency. Modern notebooks start with Celerons at least 1.6GHz, more likely 1.86GHz, and are built on the much more modern Merom architecture, which have at least a 10% IPC advantage over the old Dothan architecture. No, atom is nowhere NEAR a modern Celeron in performance. Nice try though.
    Reply
  • joefriday
    Also, Why not have a Celeron 420 by now? Are you telling me that THG, with all its money, can't budget in a $30 CPU for comparative testing?
    Reply
  • joefriday
    After reviewing the article, I can say I'm thoroughly unimpressed with the Atom platform (at least the current desktop derivative). If anyone can remember, THG did a $300 PC build using now ancient Celeron Ds and AMD Semprons. One thing that I find amazing, is that those old rigs both use LESS power than this Atom desktop rig.
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/the-300-pc,1546-10.html

    Reply
  • randomizer
    Don't you people understand that Atom is not a desktop processor? You can't compare its performance to a desktop processor fairly because that's not what it is designed for.
    Reply
  • joefriday
    This Atom CPU is on a desktop board. That means it's fair game, especially when the processors being compared are also comparable in price.
    Reply
  • randomizer
    It's on a desktop board, woopdedoo. If you could get your mobile phone processor to run on a desktop board would you compare it to an E2160?
    Reply
  • joefriday
    Who cares what the Atom CPU is SUPPOSED to be. It is right now, in this review, on a desktop-oriented package, built to compete with low power consumption desktop computers. It fails miserably in that regard, as it is neither low power consumption, nor competitive. In your ridiculous example, if I had a mobile phone processor on a desktop board, and it ended up consuming more power than an E2160/motherboard combo that costs the same amount of money, all the while performing much worse than the e2160, I would call the mobile phone cpu on a desktop motherboard either A FAILURE or AMD. Take your pick.
    Reply
  • apaige
    So, for the Intel Atom, you do use an updated version of Sandra, but not for the Phenom. You compare it to the VIA C7, a 3 year-old CPU, but not the VIA Nano, which will be available in the same timeframe as the Atom. You don't provide graphics for power consumption, despite the Atom being designed for low power consumption; surprise, the old C7-M system draws less power.

    Biased much?
    Reply
  • Not sure that Nano's are really available yet, still a newer mini-itx based C7 (say EPIA-M700) would have been better, since you would be looking at even less power than the one used and the VX800 will end up used with the Nano. The D201DLY would have been good to compare to, would also give some idea how the Atom would go paired with SiS chipsets.
    Reply