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Can Intel's New Atom Chips Liven Up Netbooks?

We may have proclaimed the netbook a phenomenon that was over and done, but Intel has just revealed its next-gen Pine Trail chips, and it looks like they might inject some new interest into the mini portable computers.

Intel Pine Trail chips With the new Pine Trail chips, Intel is moving the graphics processor unit, which currently sits nearby in a separate chip package in netbooks, inside the packaging of the Atom CPU. That reduces the total number of chips needed to drive an Atom-powered netbook from three down to two—the input-output controller chip remains separately packaged.

Though this sounds like a pretty simple change, it has significant pay-offs for how the chips operate. By placing the two closer together, it boosts the performance of the overall system. And the single chip draws less power than the two would separately—that's significant for netbook applications, since a lower power consumption means an improved battery life for the computer assuming other components remain the same. A single die also means lower costs, and that too is significant for netbooks—it could drive the cost lower, while delivering improved power. Intel's general manager of netbook chips Noury Al-Khaledy noted that the package also has better thermal properties than previous Atom chipset, which could lead to thinner netbook designs and possibly fan-less options.

Intel omitted specifically how many cores the chip would have, and that's significant if rumors of a two-core Atom are true. Plus there was no mention of core clock speeds, which also has implications for the chip options—Intel could, for example, push up the speed and deliver more power from the Pine Trail chips with the same current consumption as current-gen ones.

Either way, it will be interesting to see how netbooks powered by Intel chips perform the last quarter of this year, when the CPUs actually surface.

[via The Register

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