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Test notes
In addition to the Nano and Atom processors, we've included a Pentium M in our comparison for the sake of reference. Right now, as they read these words, marketing types from both Intel and Via are hyperventilating into paper bags, as are small contingents of pedantic fanboys from each side. Our thinking was this: we needed a familiar x86 processor as a performance and power consumption reference, and a Pentium M at 2GHz seemed like the best candidate we had on hand. We tested the Pentium M 760 on a desktop-class motherboard, just as we did the Atom and Nano, though the board is a little older. We've also presented the Pentium M's performance results in a nice "grayed out" checkerboard pattern on our graphs, so you can easily pretend they're not there, if it really bugs you. The rest of us may find the architectural comparison rather intriguing.

Please do note, though, that the 915 chipset's IGP wouldn't support Vista's Aero look, so we didn't have that enabled on the Pentium M system, while it was enabled on the other two. I suspect that might impact performance in some of the WorldBench tests, perhaps.

Also, although this Atom motherboard purportedly is capable of running its memory at 667MHz, we had no luck getting it to work at that speed with our 2GB DIMM. The board wouldn't POST if we set the speed manually to 667MHz, and the BIOS offers zero tweaking options for memory timings and voltage. Fortunately, the motherboard did choose some nice, tight timings for the memory at 533MHz, which is probably just as good as a clock speed bump for most intents, so we just ran with it. Not that we had much choice in the matter.

Our testing methods
As ever, we did our best to deliver clean benchmark numbers. Tests were run at least three times, and the results were averaged.

Our test systems were configured like so:

Processor Nano L2100 1.8GHz Atom 230 1.6GHz Pentium M 760 2.0GHz
System bus 800MHz (200MHz quad-pumped) 533MHz (133MHz quad-pumped) 533MHz (133MHz quad-pumped)
Motherboard VIA EPIA SN Intel D945GCLF AOpen i915Ga-HFS
BIOS revision AMI 080014 LF94510J.86A.0067
6.00 PG
North bridge CN896 945GC MCH 915G MCH
South bridge VT8251 ICH7 ICH6
Chipset drivers - INF Update -
Memory size 2GB (1 DIMM) 2GB (1 DIMM) 2GB (1 DIMM)
Memory type Corsair CM2X2048-8500C5D
at 667MHz
Corsair CM2X2048-8500C5D
at 533MHz
Corsair CM2X2048-8500C5D
at 400MHz
CAS latency (CL) 5 4 4
RAS to CAS delay (tRCD) 5 4 4
RAS precharge (tRP) 5 4 4
Cycle time (tRAS) 15 12 18
Audio Integrated VT8251/VT1780A
with VIA drivers
Integrated ICH7/ALC662
with Realtek drivers
Integrated ICH6/ALC880
with Realtek drivers
Graphics Integrated Chrome9 HC IGP
with drivers
Integrated GMA 950
with drivers
Integrated GMA 900
with drivers
Hard drive WD Caviar SE16 320GB SATA
OS Windows Vista Ultimate x86 Edition
OS updates Service Pack 1

Thanks to Corsair for providing us with memory for our testing. Their products and support are far and away superior to generic, no-name memory.

Our test systems were powered by OCZ GameXStream 700W power supply units. Thanks to OCZ for providing these units for our use in testing.

Also, the folks at hooked us up with a nice deal on the WD Caviar SE16 drives used in our test rigs. NCIX now sells to U.S. customers, so check them out.

The test systems' Windows desktops were set at 1280x1024 in 32-bit color at an 85Hz screen refresh rate. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

The tests and methods we employ are usually publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.