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Intel ships updated Atom chips six months early

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Intel has confirmed it is already shipping the next incarnation of the Atom processor.

The chip maker's successor to the near-ubiquitous netbook chip, the N270, is landing in the hands of laptop makers well before the anticipated mid-2009 release. Those presently mulling a netbook purchase may want to hold off for a bit.

While the new single-core N280 only has a tiny boost of clock speed over the N270, a more noticeable improvement will come from its paring with Intel's new GN40 chipset and integrated graphics. Unlike previous Atom chips, the GN40 chipset includes hardware-based high-definition video decoders allowing for 720 HD playback.

For comparison, the N280 is clocked at 1.66GHz and connect across a 667MHz frontside bus. The N270's speeds are 1.6GHz and 533MHz, respectively. For power consumption, the N280 has a TDP of just 2W compared to the N270's 2.5W.

Intel told us not to expect an enormous 'next-gen' leap over the present chip, saying we should consider it more of a derivative of the N270.

The Asus EeePC 1000HE is the first netbook spotted with the N280 processor and is already taking pre-orders. No shipping date for the netbook has been announced.

The hasn't disclosed the price of the chip, but Asian pub DigiTimes has said the CPU and chipset bundle is priced at $60-$65. ®

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