5 Things You Need to Know About Intel's Atom N450 Processor

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pinetrail-iAfter much hype and speculation, Intel has finally announced the availability of its next-generation netbook platform, the Atom N450, code named Pine Trail. Netbooks powered by the N450 platform will be hitting the market soon, including the ASUS Eee PC 1005PE-P, Dell Inspiron Mini 10, and MSI Wind U135. But what exactly is the Atom N450 and what improvements does it offer?

1. It's Highly Integrated

The N450 is the first platform from Intel that integrates the graphics and memory controller in the processor. So instead of having three chips (CPU, chipset, I/O controller hub), it's now down to two (CPU and chipset). This has myriad benefits for both netbook makers and owners, which we'll explain.

2. Expect More Battery Life

Intel claims that the N450's power consumption has decreased 20 percent over the previous generation. In our early tests, we've seen a marked improvement. For example, the ASUS Eee PC 1005PE's six-cell battery lasted over 10.5 hours on a single charge, which is more than enough endurance for all-day computing. The earlier 1005HA had a very similar design, and lasted about 9 hours. When you add it up, you're talking about an 18.4 percent increase, which is pretty much in line with Intel's claims. What's interesting about the N450 is that it could last about 4 to 5 hours on netbooks with three-cell batteries, allowing consumers to potentially get decent endurance without splurging for a six-cell netbook.

3. Sleeker, Lighter Designs

Because the N450 integrates the memory controller and graphics into the CPU, Intel says that the total footprint for its netbook platform has shrunk by 60 percent. This means mini-notebook makers can create thinner and lighter designs, as well as make machines with smaller and quieter fans. You'll also find designs with batteries that don't protrude as much—if at all. For example, the new Dell Inspiron Mini 10 neatly integrates its six-cell battery with the chassis for a unified look.

4. Similar Performance, and No Dual Core (for Now)

Given that the N450 runs at the same clock speed as the N280, 1.66-GHz, we weren't expecting much of a speed boost. And sure enough, the first Atom N450 netbook we tested, the ASUS Eee PC 1005PE, turned in scores that were on a par with older Atom machines. In PCMark05, which measures Windows performance, the system was a bit below average but ahead of the curve in another synthetic benchmark, Geekbench. If you thought Intel was bringing dual-core muscle to Atom netbooks, think again. For now, dual-core Atom CPUs are reserved for compact desktop PCs, although that's not stopping the likes of ASUS from taking these chips and cramming them into 12-inch machines like the Eee PC 1201N.

5. Bring Your Own Graphics Muscle

Atom-powered netbooks have new Intel GMA 3150 graphics, which replaces the GMA 950 chip. As mentioned above, the 3150 is integrated with the CPU, but in our early tests we haven't seen a performance boost. So if you want graphics muscle from your netbook, especially for full-screen video streaming on sites like Hulu and YouTube, you'll want to consider a video accelerator from Broadcom (available on the new Dell Inpsiron Mini 10 and soon other netbooks). Systems equipped with Nvidia's Ion graphics (such as the HP Mini 311 and Lenovo IdeaPad S12) go further by allowing users to play mainstream 3D games and even edit video faster, but you'll pay more for those systems.

Author Bio
Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief on
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  • david williams Says:

    I have a Toshiba NB 300 that runs on the Atom N450. Recently I bought an ASUS T100 for my wife. Runs brilliantly on an Atom Bay Trail Z3740. Still love my little NB300. Is there any way to fit a new processor to replace the N450?

  • bugger Says:

    I've just purchased a mini and all I canb say is that considering the assumptions regarding 2 core 64 bit computing, everyone else has to tag along lest you end up with some delays. Nonetheless, considering the size, the integrated 256 Mb graphics card and the possibility to hook a large screen and a keyboard without mention of any other external devices needed such as a DVD , no need to be a genius to grasp that for the price it foots the bill !

  • Herpes Says:

    I want Intel Core i7 for my laptop and I'm gonna butcher all of low-graphical cards in Earth.

  • RDC Says:

    Come on people, you find these procs in low cost (typcially under $300 usd) netbooks. I have the Acer Aspire One, get no joke, 10 hrs of batt life with just internet browsing and word processing. I can watch 480p video very smoothly, 720p has occasional hiccups, but I don' expect much from a $$300 dollar machine. If you want a laptop to do that stuff, just spend the extra cash and get one with a faster proc and dedicated gfx chip. I have my quad core machine with 8 gb of ram to play games and watch HD video.. and i shelled out $500 dollars more, so it better. Point is, this chip does exactly what its supposed to: make basic computing portable and get EXCELLENT batter life.. QQ some more dude.

  • A dude Says:

    I definately agree with scott on the subject of what the atom is designed for. Portable basic computing and internet surfing.

    If you want a full HD 1080 multimedia or gaming rig you have to pay more anyway. Might aswell buy a more decent processor if you want to spend more money.

  • Scott Says:

    Fanfoot is saddened that these very cheap netbooks can't deliver full hi-def viewing (I assume 1080p). Why do users set such hi standards? NOBODY ever talks about the fact that even those viewers with perfect vision have eyes that cannot perceive the HD detail beyond about 1.3 times the screen diagonal. This holds for a 10 inch or a 60 inch screen.

    So my bugaboo is, if your eyes can't see the detail unless you sit a maximum of 13 inches from the netbook (or 80 inches from your 60 inch plasma!), why dial up the load on your $299 computer's GPU? Relax and enjoy what the box can do at a resolution that your eyes CAN see. Cheers.

  • someguy Says:

    It's junk, it's intel's way of forcing you to use their integrated graphics and even worse graphics drivers. and the broadcom solution is only good for video, no gaming or media transcoding acceleration like a real gpu.

  • Fanfoot Says:

    The battery life improvements are indeed surprising. You'd think with all the power used by the netbook display that the overall reduction in system power would be less than Intel's CPU/GPU claims and yet... As you say, perhaps we'll see 4 cell netbooks with decent battery life that are lighter, cheaper and more streamlined than previous 6 cell systems. Honestly, once you get over 8 hours of life, I'd rather have a smaller/lighter/cheaper machine...

    I'm disappointed in the GPU situation. Intel had a GPU core in the GMA 500 that could handle h.264 decode acceleration and would do GPU-offloading in Flash 10.1 to allow full screen HD Flash playback without stuttering, and yet with Pineview we're stuck with something that can't do that. While I agree that gaming is a subset of the market, Flash video playback is not, and the fact that Intel's solution still can't address this is sad. If the previous generation is any guide, the Broadcom chip won't be offered on many netbooks and will be a significant cost adder that most people won't go for, meaning it isn't remotely mainstream. Unfortunate.

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