Intel has started shipping Cedar Trail versions of its Atom processor. This third generation of the Atom purportedly offers double the graphics performance of Pine Trail thanks to a new GPU core based on PowerVR tech from Imagination Technologies. Although early reports indicated this GPU would support DirectX 10.1, the press presentation (PDF) on Cedar Trail lists only DirectX 9. At least the new "media engine" is supposed to be capable of decoding 1080p content. Intel has also added support for its Wireless Display tech.
Some of Cedar Trail’s improved graphics performance likely comes from the greater memory bandwidth enabled by its support for DDR3 memory up to 1066MHz. Higher clock speeds are also on the menu for the CPU, which is otherwise unchanged from the last iteration. The mobile N2600 and N2800 offer dual cores clocked at 1.6 and 1.86GHz, respectively. For nettops, the Atom D2500 and D2700 serve up the same core counts at 1.86 and 2.13GHz. All but the D2500 can execute four threads thanks to Hyper-Threading.
These new Atom processors are built on 32-nm process technology, and the mobile chips fit into particularly tight thermal envelopes. Intel says Cedar Trail’s average platform power consumption is about 0.5W lower than an equivalent Pine Trail setup. Netbooks based on the new platform are claimed to offer up to 10 hours of battery life. Interestingly, the press release makes no mention of tablets, which typically achieve the same run time with much smaller batteries than netbooks. Intel has a 32-nm Medfield version of the Atom processor targeted at tablets.
Acer, Asus, HP, Lenovo, Samsung, and Toshiba are supposed to have Cedar Trail-based systems out early next year, and I can’t help but wonder if we’ll see as many mini media PCs as netbooks. Mainstream consumers finally seem to be catching on to the idea of a computer in the living room, while netbooks have seen their appeal diminished by tablets.