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Whizz for Atoms: inside Intel's next netbook generation

Picking up the 'Pine Trail'

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Intel's Atom initiative may have proved successful so far, but the chip giant has done itself no favours by releasing two versions of the chip.

Intel Atom - Diamondville

Intel's Diamondville: Pineview will be bigger, thanks to the on-board GPU and memory controller

Atom is currently available in two forms: 'Silverthorne' and 'Diamondville'. One's for handheld internet tablets - what Intel calls Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs) - and the second for netbooks and, in a dual-core form, for desktops. Nice and clear cut product differentiation, but you can buy netbooks based on Silverthorne chips, which are sold as Intel's Atom Z series.

And it doesn't look like that situation is going to change any time soon. Intel recently revealed a little more about 'Pine Trail', the next release of its netbook-centric Atom CPU and chipset combo series, and it bears a remarkable resemblance to 'Moorestown', the follow up to the Atom platform for MIDs.

Pine Trail comprises the 'Pineview' processor and a chipset, 'Tiger Point', connected over a DMI (Direct Media Interface) link. Pineview inserts a GPU and a memory controller into the CPU package - Intel isn't saying whether they're on the die or simply stashed in the same ceramic - allowing Tiger Point to focus solely on I/O operations.

Incidentally, Pineview's CPU core is called 'Bonnell', which is the overarching codename for the core design employed by 'Silverthorne' and 'Diamondville' - and by Moorestown's 'Lincroft' CPU core and the one in Moorestown's system-on-a-chip successor.

Intel stresses that this is three chips becoming two, with the middle part of the old CPU-northbridge-southbridge tryptic being cut out of the picture. That, it says, means lower costs to machine makers, lower power consumption and improved performance, though the latter's not entirely a result of the integration.

Intel Atom - Pine Trail

Atom evolution: from Diamondville to Pine Trail

Pine Trail's due in Q4, Intel has said, but its sticking with its 2009-2010 release timeframe for Moorestown. Like Pine Trail, Moorestown comprises Lincroft and an I/O chip, 'Langwell'. There's no, more narrow, window for Moorestown's launch, but Pine Trail looks like it will debut in October, presumably to allow manufacturers to get new netbooks out in time for Christmas.

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