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Intel Doubles Down on Netbook Processors

By Richard Adhikari
Aug 23, 2010 2:14 PM PT

Intel on Monday announced that 12 new netbooks based on its dual-core mobile Intel Atom processors, code-named "Pine Trail," are now available.

Intel Doubles Down on Netbook Processors

These are available from eight vendors, including Acer, Asus, Lenovo and Toshiba. Other vendors will announce their new netbooks running the N550 soon, Intel said.

Netbooks built around the Atom N550 are aimed at heavy online use and at gamers.

Two Cores Are Better than One

The netbooks released Monday are built around the Intel Atom N550 CPU. This is a 150 GHz processor that runs on two physical cores with two threads each. Each core has 512 KB of L2 cache. Memory support is a single-channel DDRS running at 557 MHz up to 2 GB.

The N550 incorporates Nvidia's ION graphics processing unit, which uses Nvidia's Optimus technology. "Optimus gives the ability to automatically switch between an integrated processor and a discrete processor," Nvidia spokesperson Brian Burke told TechNewsWorld.

"A dual core processor will provide more performance than a single-core but at nearly the same power draw," Leslie Fiering, lead Intel analyst at Gartner, told TechNewsWorld.

More, Better, Faster

Several mainstream applications, including Adobe Photoshop and Windows Movie Maker, are multithreaded, and hence run faster on dual-core processors than on single-core ones, Intel spokesperson Suzy Ramirez said. Windows 7 users will also see better performance.

"Windows 7 focuses on how multithreaded applications are run, providing benefits in energy reduction, scalability and performance," Ramirez told TechNewsWorld.

Users will also see better performance when they have multiple applications open at the same time, Ramirez added.

Online applications will also get a boost from the dual-core technology.

"The dual-core N550 will offer new levels of support for more media-intensive online applications," Ramirez explained.

These include games as well as Adobe Flash for access to various Web pages and multimedia sites such as YouTube and Hulu, Intel said.

One of the new netbooks based on the Atom N550 is the Asus Eee 1215PN, Nvidia's Burke said.

Aren't Netbooks the New Dodos?

Though netbooks have gained considerable attention by consumers over the last couple of years, their position in the market is being squeezed by tablet computers like the Apple iPad.

"We believe that media tablets such as the iPad are cannibalizing netbook sales, especially in the companion device mode,' Gartner's Fiering said."Unless there are specific advantages offered only by a netbook, many buyers are voting with their dollars for the media tablet category."

Workers who already have a full-featured desktop or notebook will find media tablets can do what they need for an occasional device, Fiering pointed out. However, netbooks are the better choice if "some level" of computational power and better synching with desktop and notebook documents are needed.

"Are netbooks a dying breed? Not yet," said James McGregor, chief technology strategist at In-Stat. "Tablets right now are selling for more than [US]$400 and there's a very good distinction in the market on price points."

Netbooks are under pressure from other segments, particularly notebooks, McGregor told TechNewsWorld.

"Wal-Mart last Christmas was offering a fully featured Toshiba notebook for under $299," McGregor pointed out."However, netbooks have got a pricing advantage, and as long as they have that and they have a different channel -- the carriers -- they've got a chance," he added.

Strength in Numbers

Intel thinks the netbooks market will remain strong.

"We listed eight OEMs in our press release today, and others will make their own announcements in the next few months," Intel's Ramirez said. "The fact that all major OEMs are still developing and innovating on netbooks is a key indicator that these types of devices are still relevant. Intel continues to see a healthy demand for netbooks, and we don't expect that to change any time soon."

Is "too much screen time" really a problem?
Yes -- smartphone addiction is ruining relationships.
Yes -- but primarily due to parents' failure to regulate kids' use.
Possibly -- long-term effects on health are not yet known.
Not really -- lack of self-discipline and good judgement are the problems.
No -- angst over "screen time" is just the latest overreaction to technology.
No -- what matters is the quality of content, not the time spent viewing it.
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