Efficiency Analysis: Atom D510 Vs. Atom D525/ION2

Intel's Atom D525 offers a faster clock rate than its predecessor at the same 13 W TDP. Obviously, the new dual-core chip is going to be faster. But after we determined that the Core i3 is more efficient, can Atom D525 usurp the desktop contender?

Intel recently added a faster Atom dual-core model to its lineup. The Atom D525 overtakes its predecessor, the D510, thanks to a 1.8 GHz clock speed (as opposed to the D510's 1.66 GHz).

But this isn't the only change. Both new Atom models, the dual-core D525 and single-core D425, support up to 4 GB of DDR3-800 memory. The chips still employ Hyper-Threading and come with the Pineview core’s integrated graphics unit. Finally, the 512 KB L2 cache per core remains unchanged.

As a quick bit of clarification, while the Atom N-series is designed for netbooks, the D family usually goes into nettops.

We tested Jetway's NC98-525-LF integrated motherboard, a fully-featured mini-ITX platform with an Atom D525. Jetway adds an Nvidia ION2 for additional graphics horsepower. This might not be important for 3D applications due to the chipset's inadequate performance capabilities for this demanding segment, but ION2 helps to smooth video playback at resolutions up to 1080p.

Despite its modest 1.8 GHz clock speed, even the fastest Atom D525 is still much slower than any desktop processor, even the relatively poky Intel Celeron. Desktop chips are much faster per clock, but Atom is hard to beat when it comes to power consumption. Atom allows manufacturers to create low-power systems.

But low power doesn't always translate into high efficiency. The article Efficiency Analysis: Core i3 Trumps Atom On The Desktop provides a great insight into performance per watt, comparing an entry-level Core i3 processor and the Atom D510 dual-core. Now it's time to see how much better the Atom D525 actually is.

This duel compares the Atom D510 against the Atom D525 in synthetic benchmarks, application benchmarks, and our power consumption and efficiency test suite. Let's see what the new Atom dual-core can do versus the model that came before.

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  • darthvidor
    very nice, thank you. been wondering how fast and energy efficient the new atom is. might replace the intel d945gclf2 connected to my tv.
  • Scanlia
    Thanks... now I know that a D525 is better than the D510... I thought a higher number means that it's slower... .
  • Simple11
    Sweet! I am always looking at atoms+ion combos for my Carputer build!
  • Gin Fushicho
    I just skipped to the power consumption after I saw the application benches.

    I'd rather keep the D510 over a D525. Longer battery life for my simple purpose of web browsing.
  • super_tycoon
    i don't think you guys even tried using the d525/ion2 system for anything beyond the benchmarks. you greatly underestimate how usable it is. my asus 1215n chugs along just fine in almost any game. obviously you wouldn't want to throw something like civ5 at it, but in reality the combo plays games better than (for the most part) any iX notebook with integrated graphics. it plays company of heroes and starcraft 2 just fine at lowered settings. i'd bet you'd be surprised how viable it is as a light gaming platform for something that uses as much power as your monitor.
  • jeremypv
    >>This could not be done without Nvidia's graphics unit, as even 720p video was impossible to watch on the Atom D510.

    I'm using xbmc with a D510, and it plays 720p video just fine, with coreavc, it can even play a few 1080p videos
  • ta152h
    Was this supposed to be about the Ion, or the D525? Why would you write an article with the intent to compare two processors, and put them on very different platforms?

    I didn't even read this worthless article after I saw that. It would have been interesting had the reviewers used some common sense.
  • JonnyDough
    Except for power savings...why would anyone buy one of these when you can get recycled PCs for almost free? In six months they will have something a lot better anyway.
  • sudeshc
    nice article, but i feel there is still need for alot of improvements
  • SteelCity1981
    I don't get why intel still hasn't made the transition to 32nm for the Atoms yet. You would think these chips would have been the first to get 32nm.
  • jestersage
    I feel the article lacked meat. It would have been interesting to compare it to an old gf9300 or even gf7050 socket 775 motherboard with a PDC or even CDC. The latter options would probably cost as much nowadays as the d525+ion combo.
  • nevertell
    Oh come on, how is it NOT possible to watch a 720 p on an atom, if I can watch it with an sempron 2400+ which is just ancient.
  • tx-jose

    I have a mini ITX buil but its a gigabyte pushing an 1156LGA i5 overclocked to 4.16GHz and DDR3 1333 ram!!! nice for HTPC with a GTS 250 Nvidia grafix card too .....
  • nukemaster
    In general without the video/power tests the rest are still fairly valid for a performance comparison.

    tx-josesweet!!! I have a mini ITX buil but its a gigabyte pushing an 1156LGA i5 overclocked to 4.16GHz and DDR3 1333 ram!!! nice for HTPC with a GTS 250 Nvidia grafix card too .....
    Cool, I got one of those too but with a 5770, what does it have to do with this article? 46 watts idle without overclocking is cool though.

    super_tycooni'd bet you'd be surprised how viable it is as a light gaming platform for something that uses as much power as your monitor.

    Way less then my monitor, i bet i have the least efficient screen ever made.
  • Parsian
    Here is my personal experience as a student, with my 11.6" HP MINI 311 ION w/ 3GB and Windows 7 Pro 32bit with Full AERO features active:

    I can run Mathlab, have 7 browsers open, and OpenOffice.org all at the same time. Oh yes, i can play Youtube HD 1080 smooth unlike most of the laptops out there. So to me, its the most amazing device that is light, cheap and can pack a lot of punch for 400 bux canadian.
  • digiex
    I just wait for Zapate.
  • I kind of think some things are bull;

    The older Atom N260 was capable of playing back older DX9 games,and HD 720p video; why should the desktop version not be able to?

    Perhaps not at 1600x1200 pixels or more, but at 1024x600 or 720p it should play back most games on lowered resolution!
  • luke904
    really? i never knew more clockspeed results in better performance and more power consumption, and relatively the same efficiency. sorry this just wasnt a good read
  • hellwig
    Are you sure that old D510MO doesn't have a mini-PCIe slot, whats that grey riser between the ATX power plug and the PCI slot? Still, you can see why Intel downplays ION, it adds a lot to the power consumption. Sure, it makes it much more capable at video and gaming, but others here seem to think the non-ION variety can handle 720P just fine, which would put these in league with the AppleTV, where they cannot compete on price. I just don't see where Atom fits into any market segment. ARM is much more power efficient, and The Core i3s and Athlon II's are much too powerful (and not really much more expensive).
  • gmarsack
    I own two Atom-based systems (one being a D510) and I have to say, they are pretty darn amazing for the cost to operate. It's nice to see this tech advance, and I would love to see continued advancement in power efficiency and see those power levels continue to drop.
  • tpi2007
    From the Benchmark numbers I can tell Intel is holding back the Atom's performance in order to come back with a big bang with the new Atom Generation.

    Remember that the Atom was right there at the beginning using 45nm technology, and now Intel is just maximising their profits, keeping it at 45nm.

    When they release the improved core, with improved graphics, at 32nm, they can scale it to 2.6 Ghz and start being competititve with the lower end Celerons. A mere 1.66 Ghz to 1.8 Ghz bring quite visible performance gains here, let alone when they jump a full Ghz in clockspeed + further arquitectural enhancments.
  • rossward
    So if you built a system with the intention pushing around as few electrons as possible, would you really put 4GB RAM in it? How about a 16-32GB SSD instead of a standard HDD? Then, of course, there's the 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified power supply. I guess it was cheap or something. Don't they have Silver and Gold? The Gold Certified Enermax PRO87 is only $30 more at newegg. Come to think of it, aren't they making high-efficiency, low-watt solid state power supplies these days?

    If I wanted a low power system - and that's the only reason to get one of these - I might consider underclocking the thing too. No, it wouldn't play Starcraft 2 or Blu-ray 3D videos (kinda dumb to try that with these although I'm sure SC2 plays just fine with pixelated graphics circa 1995), but this wouldn't be my main machine (and I hope not yours). This would be the always-on host for the MagicJack and the machine to Wake-On-LAN my main rig or the machine that always has weather.com and ctabustracker.com available as I'm running out the door.

    Can you undervolt these things? What about DDR2-800, can you undervolt it and run it as DDR2-600? How come Tom's doesn't run a Most Efficient competition? Whoever gets the most power out of only 10 watts wins a free 500 watt video card. Although it might be difficult to measure the efficiency of it while it's submerged in liquid nitrogen.
  • netsql
    Google TV? Apple TV? Meh.

    Oh yeah baby.
  • nukemaster
    212514 said:
    Google TV? Apple TV? Meh. http://tinyurl.com/2dcedxj Oh yeah baby.

    That is very cool with the bluray player and all, but Google TV is supposed to be integrated into the tv it self, making it a free option on many tvs if it takes.

    I would rather have that(the zotac) and a good usb pvr tuner/external hard drive, but others may not want another pc(even with Google tv being a pc in the tv too.).