Next Intel Atom Chip Pretty Much Like the Last One
Intel’s latest Atom chip, the N280, will offer a momentous 3.75% speed increase from 1.6GHz to 1.66GHz. If you’re thinking, “but Intel can surely produce an Atom chip faster than that by now,” you’re right. The growth of the Atom chip is being limited on purpose.
Intel’s latest N280 chip will feature other small improvements, such as the FSB (front side bus) being increased from 533MHz to 667MHz. It will also be able to handle graphics better with the overall GN40 chipset considered to be HD playback compatible. But, in large part, the processor has remained the same, and the limitations are by design.
The plunge into the netbook market has been notably called by Sony “a race to the bottom,” and although they have arguably caved with the I-say-I’m-not-a-netbook-but-sort-of-actually-am P-series, the logic still stands. Many fear that netbooks have cannibalized a large portion of the notebook market, with many users purchasing netbooks instead of full blown notebooks rather than in addition to them as manufacturers would prefer. Since netbooks are less expensive and operate on a considerably slimmer profit margin, increased netbook sales would therefore result in a decrease in profits rather than an increase.
Bearing this in mind, it should come as no surprise that Intel is not racing to make netbooks more and more competitive with their higher priced ultraportables. The graphics increase is no doubt largely there to keep Atom competitive with NVidia’s new Ion platform. Beyond that, Intel has plans to release a new chip for ultra-thin laptops that is better than Atom but below the high end ULVs in ultraportables, leaving the Atom with even less room to grow. If you recall, AMD also released a chip aimed at that market recently too. Ain’t nobody really lookin’ to upgrade netbooks very much.