Atom challengers poised for 2009 debut
Intel rivals prep dual-core netbook chips
2009 promises to be the Year of the Dual-Core Netbook, what with low-power dualies from Freescale, AMD, and VIA Technologies poised to join Intel's dual-core Atom 330.
AMD's and VIA's are full-fledged dual-core processors and Freescale's chip, a new member of its i.MX family, will include dual graphics cores that provide OpenVG and OpenGL support.
No word yet on its all-important thermal design power (TDP) rating - details will be made available when Freescale rolls it out at CES in January - but since it's ARM-based, expect it to be sufficiently power-miserly to give the Atom 330, which has a TDP of 8 watts, a run for its netbook money.
There's no word yet either on the TDP of the AMD dualie, code-named Conesus. However, during an analyst's meeting in November, AMD SVP Randy Allen said that Conesus and its companion platform, Yukon, are designed for customers who don't want a "compromised PC experience."
In other words, it appears that Conesus will require enough juice to make is more suited to beefier netbooks - or low-power notebooks - than the Atom 330. Conesus details will also be revealed at CES.
The dual-core X86-compatible processor from VIA Technologies appears to be the most direct challenger to the Atom 330. Revealed today by DigiTimes, the company's upcoming Nano 3000 family of low-power processors is based on VIA's existing Nano 1000 and Nano 2000 lines. Although the projected TDP of the Nano 3000 line hasn't yet been published, the TDPs of the Nano U2400 (1.3GHz), U2500 (1.2GHz), and U2300 (1.0GHz) are 8W, 6.8W, and 5W, respectively. VIA's U-series processors are defined by the company as "ultra power efficient" and "ultra low voltage."
What sets the Nano 3000 family apart from its Freescale and AMD competition, however, is its support for Intel's SSE4 instruction set, which should boost the Nano 3000's performance in 3D graphics, video encoding/decoding, gaming, and other performance-hungry applications.
Although it remains unclear whether the Nano 3000 will support the entire SSE4 instruction set, Electronista weighs in with the opinion that the Nano 3000 line "will likely not support the full SSE4 instruction set, but rather a subset of 47 instructions." Forty-seven isn't bad, though, considering that the full SSE4 set includes 54 instructions.
Although further details of the Freescale and AMD offerings will be avaiable at CES, dual-core Nano 3000 engineering samples won't be available until the second half of 2009, with full-scale production slated for the end of the year or early 2010.
Netbooks are the hot items these days (are you listening, Apple?), and Intel's Atom has held the lion's share of socket space. The range of processor options, however, is set to expand. ®
Ubuntu is supporting ARM
With Ubuntu officially supporting ARM processors there is a real chance that ARM based netbooks would have the apps you need and want available from a simple package manager.
If it works then it doesn’t matter what the underlying architecture is.
It’s not like you will be changing the graphics card, or hard disk controller.
With netbooks expansion is limited to SD/USB slots.
I’m excited to see what comes out in the 2H 09
Is more power really needed for a netbook?
Honestly, I think that the ARM architecture is probably the most promising.
I have an MSI Wind (originaly SLED replaced by Ubuntu) and perforpmance is excellent for everything except video editing and playing HD videos (720P videos are really at the limit), but then these are not tasks a netbook is designed for.
On a linux machine I don't see why 64 bits or 4 Gbs or ram would be needed, under ubuntu 512 Mb is quite confortable and 1 GB is more than enough (I haven't rebootet my wind in 3 weeks and I am using about 450 Mb of memory and 60 mb of swap, with 3 apps open).
What we need is better video acceleration under linux, and netbooks delivered with a decent distibution, not more powerful processors. More effiicient processors (as consuming less battery) on the other hand that would be interesting...
Now if you wnat to run the archi-bloated windows Vista / 7 then 4 Gbs and a dual core 64 bits processor are probably required for confortable usage, but then I don't call this a netbook anymore.
The nice bit abotu the HP2133 was the screen, which, at 1280x768, is somewhat useable. For some reason no other netbooks seem to want to go above 1024x600, which is somewhat unuseable.
I suspect that manufacturers realize that if they sell netbooks with a useful screen, then they will cut into their real laptop sales. Plus it seems to have become a standard, so they've got a psuedo excuse for not making decent screens available.
I'm also not attached to the x86 arch, which I think is mostly popular because of politics instead of actual merit. As long as the Freescale chip has an FPU, which some ARM chips (looking at whatever is in the Nokia N8xx line here) seem to neglect. I imagine that it will be on there, since it seems like you'd put an FPU on there before two GPUs.
I'd really be more interested in a PPC netbook, which will never happen since I believe the market for such a device would be about 8 people, but Freescale could help out if it did happen.
I know what you're saying, but why don't you also ask for a skoda with a ferrari engine in while you're at it?
I Didn't Know That!
In that case, I want those now! Seriously, there's nothing wrong with cheap, cool (in thermal sense), lightweight and high-authonomy laptops that come loaded with apps that will do more or less everything that I'll ever want to do on them and that have the neccessary drivers for external drives, mice, cameras, etc (and I suppose that a modern major linux distribution has all that). :D
And if I can make a special request to all the netbook manufacturers everywhere, please make 1024*768 screens an option. Widescreen does seem to be all the rage, but it really isn't good for much other than movies and it's especially bad for web browsing and text processing and a vertical resolution of 600px is not what it used to be in those SVGA days.