Intel announced on Monday the first dual-core Atom processor targeted specifically at Netbooks, finally putting the same number of processing cores inside these tiny laptops as found on larger mainstream laptops.
Acer, Asus, Lenovo, and LG all announced new dual-core Netbooks Monday. Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, MSI, Samsung, and Toshiba, among others, are planning similar announcements in the coming weeks and months, according to Intel.
This is a big step for the Netbook market. Since their inception back in spring 2008, Netbooks have been powered by single-core processors. This allowed Netbook suppliers to design 10-inch-class laptops that were relatively power efficient and inexpensive, typically costing about $350.
The widely reported downside has been lackluster performance, since all processing must be funneled through one core. The Atom performance gap with mainstream Core 2 Duo and Core i laptop processors is also due to design differences. (Mainstream laptop processors have a different architecture, delivering higher-level performance.) But the fact that the Atom for Netbooks has always been single core has exacerbated the performance gap.
Intel has other reasons for moving to dual core. Low-power dual-core processors from rival Advanced Micro Devices are already appearing in Netbook-class laptops. The Hewlett-Packard Pavilion dm1z, an 11.6-inch Netbook, uses an AMD Turion II Neo dual-core K625 processor (1.5GHz) and ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4225 graphics processor, offering potentially stiff competition for single-core Atom Netbooks.
The new dual-core Intel N550 Atom runs at 1.5GHz and supports DDR3 memory, another performance benefit.
Despite the expected crush of updated models, the Netbook now has a new nemesis: the iPad. "The death of the Netbook has been greatly exaggerated," said Bob O'Donnell, an analyst at IDC, referring to the rise of the Apple iPad and its impact on Netbook sales. Though O'Donnell doesn't discount the iPad effect, Netbooks are principally for consumers who want to use Windows on a small device--virtually impossible on an iPad--and they're less expensive than an iPad, to boot. … Read more