Intel showcases Atom

11 June 2008

The processor to bring big power to small laptops was announced at Computex, Taipei.

Described as Intel’s smallest processor, built with the world’s smallest transistors, Atom packs 47million transistors into the silicon. The company believes the Atom will enable more people around the world to access the internet and to power small laptops at a low cost, bringing the dream of affordable computing for all a step closer.

The chip is based on a microarchitecture, specifically designed for small devices and low power operation. It does maintain the company’s Core 2 Duo instruction set compatability. The design also support multiple threads.

The chip is manufactured on a 45nm process with hi-k metal gate technology, packing 47million transistors into 25mm2.

Thermal design power ranges between 0.6W to 2.5W and can be scaled up to 1.8GHz.

A variant of the processor can be used in computing tablets, which increase the internet access available above that of mobile phones to bring mobile internet to the masses.

There is a lot of interest in smaller notebooks or laptops in Asia generally, called ‘netbooks’ by Intel and Mini-Note by Hewlett-Packard. Two Taiwanese companies have also announced mini laptops. Acer has produced an ultra-compact laptop and Asus Tek uses an Intel chip in its eeePC that appeals to the younger, design crowd with its array of pastel colour covers.

Estimates of just how popular vary, with worldwide sales figures projected to be anything from nine million to over 50million over the next three to four years.

The smaller notebooks have less functions, and it has been pointed out, a smaller keypad, more suited to children’s fingers than a adults, than standard laptops but are even more portable and use less power.

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