Intel’s next-gen Atom arrives in Asus’ Eee PC 1005PE netbook

I can’t help but wonder what’s gone through the heads of the engineers who designed Intel’s Atom CPU. Envisioned as an x86-compatible computing platform that could eventually make its way into smart phones, the first iteration of the Atom was targeted at Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs)—glorified web tablets with basic multimedia playback capabilities. MIDs never really caught on, though. That’s just as well, because the Atom had another destiny: fueling a revolution in the notebook world courtesy of a new class of budget ultraportables that came to be known as netbooks.

Yes, the seminal Eee PC ran an underclocked Celeron rather than an Atom CPU. But netbooks really didn’t catch on until the Atom and its associated Diamondville platform became available. The original Atom N270 had just enough horsepower to handle basic web surfing, email, office document manipulation, and standard-definition video playback. Plus, it was power-efficient enough to deliver more than five hours of real-world battery life in ultraportables that tipped the scales at under three pounds and cost around $400. No wonder everyone from mobo makers like Asus, Gigabyte, and MSI, to system giants like Acer, Dell, and HP, were eager to get into the netbook game.

Before netbooks came along, new ultraportables didn’t often dip below the $1,000 mark. Most were premium models that cost well over a grand. The Atom opened this previously exclusive market to the masses, and the rest is history. According to an ABI Research report quoted by Intel, about 50 million netbooks will have sold by the end of this year. Another 60 million are predicted to reach consumers in 2010.

The Atom didn’t stop at netbooks, either. It also spilled into the desktop world, where the CPU can be found driving low-cost nettops, mini home-theater PCs, all-in-one systems strapped to the back of LCD monitors, network-attached storage rigs with multi-drive RAID arrays, and even Mini-ITX motherboards.

One of the most surprising things about the Atom’s rise is the fact that this all-new CPU has managed to succeed while tied to an antiquated chipset whose roots can be traced all the way back to 2005. Atom processors are usually accompanied by two additional bits of silicon: a 945GSE north bridge chip with GMA 950 integrated graphics and an ICH7M south bridge chip. Not only do these older core-logic components lack the sort of features one might expect from a modern chipset with integrated graphics, but they also draw quite a lot of power. The 945GSE/ICH7M combo has a TDP rating of 9.3W—nearly four times the 2.5W TDP of the Atom N270 CPU found in most netbooks. The chipset has a rather large footprint, too; its north and south bridge components have a combined package area of 1,690 mm², which works out to about 3.5 times the size of the Atom’s 484 mm² Micro-FBGA package. Millimeters might not seem like much, but they count for a lot when you’re working within the constrained proportions of typical netbook designs.

More than a year has passed since the first Atom platform debuted, and Intel is finally ready to release its much-anticipated successor. Code-named Pine Trail, this second-generation platform’s most interesting element is again the CPU—otherwise known as Pineview. The intrigue has little to do with changes to the actual processor core, though.

The Atom N450 die. Source: Intel.

Intel declined to comment on any specific modifications to the new Atom’s CPU core, instead pointing us to data sheets that suggest that little has changed. This latest Atom retains the in-order architecture of its forebear, complete with Hyper-Threading support. The cache structure also appears to be unchanged, with 56KB of L1 split between 32KB instruction and 24KB data caches and 512KB of L2 cache associated with each physical core.

Even clock speeds haven’t budged. Intel is announcing the Atom N450, D410, and D510 models today, and they all run at 1.66GHz, just like the old N280. The N450 and D410 feature a single core that can execute two threads in parallel, while the D510 has two cores and can handle four concurrent threads. All three chips are manufactured using a high-k, 45-nm fabrication process, but their TDPs vary somewhat. The netbook-oriented N450 has a 5.5W TDP, while the desktop-bound D410 and D510 have TDP ratings of 10W and 13W, respectively.

But wait, the original Atom had a 2.5W TDP. Where’s all the extra power going? To the rest of the chip, which now integrates a memory controller and a graphics processor on the same die as the CPU. The memory controller is a single-channel affair, and somewhat surprisingly, it supports old-school DDR2 rather than DDR3 memory. N-series Atom CPUs destined for netbooks can use up to 2GB of DDR2-667, while D-series desktop chips are capable of handling as much as 4GB of memory at up to an effective 800MHz.

Memory bandwidth will be in high demand because system memory is shared with the Atom’s integrated Graphics Media Accelerator 3150. This graphics core is based on the GMA X3100 found in Intel’s G31 Express desktop chipsets. That’s technically an upgrade over Diamondville’s GMA 950, but don’t get your hopes up. The GMA 3150 may support DirectX 9 and Shader Model 2.0, but it’s limited to two pixel pipelines and a core clock speed of only 200MHz in netbooks. D-series Atoms get a graphics clock boost to 400MHz, which still isn’t going to be enough for 3D gaming. More troubling, however, is the lack of HD video decode acceleration. The GMA 3150 can assist the decoding of plain old MPEG2 video, but that’s about it. Intel recommends using an auxiliary video decoder chip, available from third parties like Broadcom, to facilitate HD video playback.

The Pine Trail block diagram. Source: Intel.

Pineview has its own display outputs, although they’re quite limited. Literally. An LVDS output that tops out at 1366×768 is the sole digital display pipe. The VGA output is capped, too, at 1400×1050 for the N series and 2048×1536 for the D series, respectively. Home-theater PC implementations are going to need a helping hand in order to drive 1080p display over HDMI.

The only assistance Intel gives Pineview is a “Tiger Point” chipset: the NM10 Express, although it’s not really a set of chips at all. In Intel’s parlance, the NM10 is platform controller hub, or PCH, much like the single external P55 chip used in Lynnfield desktop systems. This mini PCH serves up a couple of Serial ATA ports, eight USB 2.0 ports, a 10/100 Fast Ethernet MAC, and an HD audio interface. There’s also room to grow via four first-generation PCI Express lanes that can be divided evenly between four x1 links or consolidated into a single x4 connection for, perhaps, a potent discrete graphics processor. Ion 2, anyone?

Intel links its new Atom CPUs to the NM10 Express via a PCIe-like DMI link that offers 1GB/s of bandwidth on N-Series Atoms and twice that with desktop chips. Each DMI lane boasts 250MB/s of bi-directional bandwidth, just like gen-one PCI Express. Desktops get four lanes and netbooks must make do with two.

Overall, Pine Trail isn’t so much about new features as it is an exercise in consolidation. Where once there were three chips, now only two remain. The Atom platform’s physical footprint has shrunk by a factor of three, down from 2,174 mm² to 773 mm². Total platform power is lower, too. Netbook implementations of Pine Trail have a combined TDP of just 7W (5.5W for the CPU and 1.5W for the chipset), which is 40% lower than Diamondville’s TDP. For desktop variants, you’re looking at a TDP of 12 or 15W, depending on the D-series processor used. The NM10 Express has a 2W TDP when used in desktops and a 1.5W TDP rating for netbooks.

Asus’ Eee PC 1005PE

On our first walk down the Pine Trail, we’re joined by Asus’ Eee PC 1005PE netbook. This little 10″ system is slated to hit shelves on January 4 with a suggested retail price of $379, which puts it right in the middle of the netbook market. These days, it’s not uncommon to see basic Atom-based netbooks available for around $300. More expensive premium models, such as Asus’ Ion-equipped Eee PC 1201N, run closer to $500.

The 1005PE is a fairly straightforward implementation of the Pine Trail platform. You just get the basics here: an Atom N450 CPU and NM10 Express chipset. Asus is looking into adding a Broadcomm HD video decoder to the mix, but that feature didn’t make the cut for this particular model.

Processor Intel Atom N450 1.66GHz
Memory 1GB DDR2-667 (1 DIMM)
Chipset Intel NM10 Express
Graphics Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 3150
Display 10″ TFT with WSVGA (1024×600) resolution and
LED backlight
Storage Seagate Momentus 5400.6 250GB 2.5″ 5,400-RPM
hard drive
Audio Stereo HD audio via Realtek codec
Port 1 VGA
3 USB 2.0
1 RJ45 10/100/1000
Gigabit Ethernet via Atheros AR8132 controller
1 analog line/headphone
output
1 analog microphone input

Expansion slots

1 MMC/SDHC
Communications

802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi via Atheros AR9285
Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR

Input devices ~85% of full size keyboard
Synaptics
touchpad with multi-touch scrolling, gestures
Internal microphone
Camera 0.3 megapixel webcam
Dimensions 10.3″ x 7″ x 1-1.4″ (262 mm x 178 mm x
25.9-36.5 mm)
Weight 2.8 lbs (1.27 kg)
Battery 6-cell Li-Ion 63Wh

At least Asus hasn’t skimped elsewhere. The 1005PE comes smartly equipped with 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and even Gigabit Ethernet. A webcam’s included, too, but the system ships with only a gig of memory by default.

Obviously, the Eee PC’s spec sheet isn’t something you’re going to drool over. This is a sub-$400 netbook, after all. A more appropriate response might be surprise that Asus has squeezed all this hardware and a six-cell battery into a system with such Gary Coleman-esque proportions. Acer’s thin-and-light 13.3″ Aspire Timeline looks absolutely massive in comparison:

Well, until you get to the thickness, anyway. The Eee PC is mostly petite, but also a little stocky, sort of like an Olympic gymnast. From a practical perspective, I’d rather have a smaller footprint than a thinner profile. I’ve never understood the fascination with ultra-thin designs, perhaps because I’ve yet to encounter a real-world scenario where extreme thinness would have been of any real benefit. I have, however, come across numerous bags, satchels, and purses that can’t accommodate even a svelte 13.3″ notebook, but will easily engulf a 10″ netbook like the 1005PE.

The Eee PC’s shallow depth will also be appreciated by anyone south of business class on a modern airline. My 1000HA has similar dimensions to the 1005PE, and I’ve never had a problem opening it up a cramped coach cabin. In my experience, the Eee’s relatively short screen leaves just enough clearance to survive a violently reclined seat back, too.

If you’ve been following our notebook coverage here at TR, you know we’re not particular fans of glossy plastics. Sure, the Eee PC’s shine looks great on the shelf and in carefully buffed product pictures. Spend a little time actually touching the finish, though, and you’ll leave behind an unsightly mess of fingerprints and smudges.

Asus doesn’t offer a matte finish option for the 1005PE, but two shades of shine will be available in North America: black and the dark, almost-Nightcrawler blue pictured above. Asus will be making white and pink versions of the 1005PE, too, but it doesn’t look like those models will make their way stateside.

At the helm

Although a few netbook models have bucked the trend here and there, the genre has largely been limited to 9-10″ screens with WSVGA display resolutions. The Eee PC 1005PE sticks with the status quo, sporting a 10″ LED-backlit display with 1024×600 pixels.

The low display resolution is by far the screen’s biggest problem. 1024×600 doesn’t give you much desktop real estate to work with, and you’re going to end up doing a heck of a lot of scrolling while surfing the web. That said, I’m not sure a higher 1366×768 resolution would work well in a 10″ display. The resulting DPI might be too high to allow folks with poor eyesight to read text comfortably.

At least the few pixels the screen does serve up look pretty good. The display’s glossy coating isn’t as reflective as some I’ve used, and its colors are clearer and crisper than those produced by my 1000HA’s LCD, whose matte finish imparts a subtle grain to any on-screen image.

As is typical for notebook and netbook displays at the budget end of the spectrum, the Eee PC’s screen looks much better dead-on than it does from an angle. There’s enough room to adjust the display’s tilt to match most reasonable vertical lines of sight, but you’ll have to sit right in front of the system to avoid the dull, washed out colors that take over the screen when it’s viewed from the left or right.

Be careful adjusting the screen’s tilt, though. The bezel is glossy black plastic, and you don’t want a mess of smudges and streaks ringing the display.

The Eee PC’s diminutive dimensions aren’t large enough to accommodate a full-size keyboard, but Asus has done a good job with the area available. There are no real layout quirks, and unlike my 1000HA, the right-shift key is in the, er, right place. Asus has even squeezed in a full-height directional pad, although the keys are a little narrow to make room for a wider right-shift key.

Total keyboard area Alpha keys
Width Height Area Width Height Rough area
Size 252 mm 92 mm 23,184 mm² 155 mm 47 mm 7,285 mm²
Versus full size 88% 84% 73% 90% 82% 74%

I have probably the worst hands for typing on a netbook: massive palms, stubby fingers, and an aggressive typing style that’s more forceful than graceful. The 1005PE’s keyboard is somewhere between 82 and 90% of full size, depending on whether you’re just looking at the alpha keys or the unit as a whole. You’d think would be a nightmare for my meat paws, yet somehow it’s not.

The keyboard does feel cramped, but that’s been true of all the 10″ netbooks I’ve used. Despite the keyboard’s small footprint, I can still get up to full speed without incurring too many typos. Typing at speed is reasonably comfortable, too, I suspect because the keys themselves feel quite good.

Yup, this is another chiclet-style design. The combination of textured key caps and clearly defined edges and gaps makes it easy to keep one’s hands hovering over the home row, even when hammering away at close to 100 words per minute. Some flex is visible, especially when applying enthusiastic force to a keystroke, but the keyboard doesn’t feel mushy as a whole. In fact, key travel feels a little weightier most, providing excellent tactile feedback for the violent staccato that is my typing style.

The last couple of Asus notebooks we’ve reviewed have featured dimpled touchpad surfaces that provided great feedback but lousy tracking. Recessed dimples have given way to Braille-like protrusions for the 1005PE’s touchpad, and I quite like the change. The nubbins still let your fingers know when they’re on the touchpad, but they don’t impede smooth tracking like the old dimples. That said, the touchpad surface is still quite small, making it difficult to settle on a sensitivity that delivers quick tracking and good precision.

Asus is responsible for the touchpad’s surface, but the internals are provided by Synaptics, whose drivers are packed with multi-touch goodness. Users can choose between dedicated zones or a two-finger approach to horizontal and vertical scrolling. Pinch zooming and pivot rotating are also supported, as are three-finger flicks. Adjustable tap zones in each corner can even be configured to perform various functions, such as minimizing or maximizing a window, firing up a search, or launching an application.

Basic connectivity and expansion options

Netbooks generally aren’t known for providing a wealth of connectivity and expansion options, and this latest Eee PC doesn’t break any new ground.

USB, audio, and Ethernet ports adorn the right edge of the system. To probe the Eee’s analog audio signal quality, I ran a 24-bit, 192kHz RightMark Audio Analyzer loopback test between the system’s line output and microphone input. RMAA gave the 1005PE a poor overall score, singling out its frequency response and stereo crosstalk as very poor. Dropping down to a CD-quality 16-bit/44.1kHz test didn’t improve the Eee PC’s RMAA score, either.

Rotating the rig 180 degrees gives us a view of the VGA output and a third USB port. From here, we can also see the primary exhaust port, behind which sits the system’s only fan. The fan is often on, but you won’t always hear it, because the lowest speed emits little more than a faint hum. Charging the unit’s battery kicks the fan into a higher, more audible gear. At no point did I find the fan noise distracting or annoying, though.

You probably won’t have to charge the battery all that often. Asus claims the 1005PE’s six-cell, 63Wh battery offers 14 hours of run time. That’s probably idling at the Windows desktop with the display brightness turned too low to actually read anything on the screen, but it wouldn’t be outlandish to expect close to eight hours of real-world battery life from the system. In a moment, we’ll see just how long the Eee PC lasts with more realistic web surfing and movie playback workloads.

The 1005PE’s removable battery makes it easy to swap in a secondary cell should your primary one run dry. You can also access the system’s solitary SO-DIMM slot, which should accept 2GB modules. However, unlike some other Eee PCs, the 1005PE doesn’t offer easy access to its 2.5″ hard drive bay. Bummer. The underbelly appears to be held on with just four screws, but removing them didn’t allow me to crack the system open, at least not with the amount of force I was willing to apply to a review sample tied to a tight deadline.

Asus covers most of the 1005PE with a one-year warranty. The battery’s warranty period only stretches to six months, though. That wouldn’t be cause for concern all on its own, but my 1000HA’s battery has lost at least an hour and a half of run time in the year I’ve been using it. I hope the 1005PE doesn’t suffer a similar fate.

After using an Eee PC for over a year, I am optimistic about how the rest of the 1005PE will wear. Like my 1000HA, the 1005PE feels nice and solid, and really quite dense. There’s virtually no flex in the chassis, probably because it’s packed to the gills. I didn’t find any odd little creaks or loose components anywhere in the mix, either.

Our testing methods

Benchmarks don’t tell the whole story when exploring netbook performance, but they’re a good place to start. Today, we’ll be looking at how the 1005PE fares against an Eee PC 1000HA based on the old Atom CPU. I’ve also included results from our last few notebook reviews to illustrate the performance gap between this next-gen netbook and budget systems based on Intel’s more capable Consumer Ultra-Low Voltage (CULV) and mobile Core 2 processors.

When connected to a wall socket, the Eee PC 1005PE and 1000HA let their Atom CPUs scale all the way up to 1.66 and 1.6GHz, respectively—their default speeds. However, on battery power, Asus’ default power management profile caps the CPU clock at 1.33GHz on the 1005PE and 1.25GHz on the 1000HA. We’ve tested the Eee PCs on battery power in this configuration and on wall power with the Atom CPUs running at a full tilt. I also ran an extra set of battery life tests with the Eee PCs configured in “high performance” mode, which allows them to scale up to full speed, even when unplugged.

Acer’s Aspire Timeline 13.3″, Asus’ UL80Vt, and Dell’s Studio 14z will provide some notebook competition for our netbook. Neither the Acer nor the Dell notebooks have high-performance or special battery-saving modes, so they were tested in their default configurations. The Asus notebook has not only an aggressive power-saving mode, but also a switchable GeForce graphics processor and a nifty turbo button that overclocks the CPU to 1.73GHz. We’ve tested the UL80Vt in a turbo configuration with its discrete GPU enabled and in its most frugal power-saving mode, which uses Intel integrated graphics and clocks the processor down to just 800MHz. I’m curious to see how a Core 2 CPU ticking along at only 800MHz fares against Atoms running at more than twice that clock speed.

With the exception of battery life, all tests were run three times, and their results were averaged.

System

Acer Aspire AS3810-6415 Timeline
Asus Eee PC 1000HA Asus Eee PC 1005PE

Asus UL80Vt-A1

Dell Studio 14z
Processor Intel Core 2 Duo SU9400
1.4GHz
Intel Atom N270 1.6GHz Intel Atom N450 1.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300
1.3GHz
Intel Core 2 Duo P8600
2.4GHz
System bus 800 MT/s

(400MHz)

1066 MT/s

(533MHz)

1066 MT/s

(533MHz)

800 MT/s

(400MHz)

1066 MT/s

(533MHz)

North bridge Intel GS45 Intel 945GSE Intel NM10 Express Intel GS45 Nvidia GeForce 9400M G
South bridge Intel ICH9M Intel ICH7M Intel ICH9M
Memory size 4GB (2 DIMMs) 1GB (1 DIMM) 1GB (1 DIMM) 4GB (2 DIMMs) 3GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type DDR3 SDRAM at 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHz DDR3 SDRAM at 800MHz DDR3 SDRAM at 1066MHz
CAS latency
(CL)
6 4 5 6 7

RAS to CAS delay (tRCD)
6 4 5 6 7
RAS precharge
(tRP)
6 4 5 6 7
Cycle time
(tRAS)
15 12 15 15 27
Audio codec Realtek codec
with 6.0.1.5807 drivers
Realtek codec with
6.1.7600.16385 drivers
Realtek codec with
6.0.1.5948 drivers
Realtek codec with
6.0.1.5898 drivers
IDT codec with
6.10.0.6217 drivers
Graphics Intel GMA X4500MHD with 7.15.10.1666 drivers Intel GMA 950 with
8.15.10.1749 drivers
Intel GMA 3150 with
8.14.10.1929 drivers
Intel GMA X4500MHD with
7.15.10.1752 drivers
Nvidia GeForce G210M with 8.15.11.8688 drivers
Nvidia GeForce 9400M G with
8.15.11.8619 drivers

Hard drive
Toshiba

HDD2HD21
500GB 5,400 RPM
Seagate Momentus 5400.4
160GB 5,400 RPM
Seagate Momentus 5400.4
160GB 5,400 RPM
Seagate Momentus 5400.6
500GB 5,400 RPM
Western Digital Scorpio
Blue 320GB 5,400 RPM

Operating system


Windows 7 Home Premium
x64

Windows 7 Starter x86

Windows 7 Starter x86


Windows 7 Home Premium
x64


Windows 7 Home Premium
x64

We used the following versions of our test applications:

All the tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.

Application performance

Netbooks spend much of their time browsing the interwebs. To test browser performance, we started with FutureMark’s Peacekeeper benchmark, which the company says tests JavaScript functions commonly used on websites like YouTube, Facebook, Gmail, and others. To test Flash performance, we used the Flash component of the GUIMark rendering benchmark.

The Atom’s performance apparently hasn’t changed much at all in Pine Trail, since the Eee PC 1005PE matches the older 1005HA quite closely. The 1005PE doesn’t score particularly well compared to the larger, more expensive notebooks, which is really no surprise. The Atom is generally fast enough for basic browsing, but JavaScript and Flash will take advantage of additional CPU performance when it’s available. Even the UL80Vt’s 800MHz battery-saving configuration scores better in both tests than the Atom-based netbooks.

Note the gap between the standard and on-battery configurations for both Eee PCs. That’s what happens when you cap an Atom CPU at 1.33GHz.

7-Zip’s built-in benchmark is nicely multithreaded, which should give the Atom’s Hyper-Threading capability something to chew on. We ran this test to 10 iterations.

Our Atom-based netbooks fare better than the battery-saving UL80Vt config in 7-Zip, but again, they’re trounced by the rest of the field. This latest Pine Trail platform appears to be no faster than its predecessor, which isn’t a surprise considering what’s actually new in the CPU.

HD video encoding isn’t the sort of task you’re going to perform regularly on a netbook. However, it’s not an unreasonable workload for a nettop attached to a high-def television.

x264 encoding is just an extremely difficult workload, one that full-fat processors handle much better than the Atom. Video playback is more the Atom’s speed, and that’s up next.

Video playback

Our next batch of tests highlights the 1005PE’s video playback performance. The chart below includes approximate CPU utilization percentages gleaned from the Windows 7 Task Manager alongside subjective impressions of actual playback. I used Windows Media Player to handle all playback tests and Firefox for our windowed YouTube tests.

Battery Wall power
CPU utilization Result CPU utilization Result
Star Trek QuickTime 480p 45-85% Perfect 27-65% Perfect
Star Trek QuickTime 720p 85-100% Some dropped frames, loss
of A/V sync
60-100% Smooth
Hot Fuzz
QuickTime 1080p
~100% Slideshow 80-100%
Frequent dropped frames, loss of A/V sync
DivX PAL SD 35-62% Perfect 32-47% Perfect
YouTube SD windowed 33-56% Perfect 27-48% Perfect
720p YouTube HD windowed 96-99% Slideshow 88-97% Slideshow

Even when running on battery, the 1005PE has no problems perfectly playing back standard-definition video content. Even a 480p Stark Trek QuickTime trailer played back flawlessly. However, bumping the trailer up to 720p resulted in dropped frames and the occasional loss of A/V sync when the the Eee PC was running on battery power. With the 1005PE cranked up to a full 1.66GHz on wall power, 720p playback was smooth and watchable, although not perfect.

The Eee PC choked on the 1080p Hot Fuzz trailer, even when connected to a wall socket. This is what happens when you don’t have HD video decoding hardware to assist a low-cost CPU like the Atom.

Flash video playback has long been one of the Atom platform’s greatest weaknesses, and Pine Trail hasn’t improved the situation. Our 720p YouTube HD test clip was little more than a slideshow on the Eee PC. Standard-def YouTube videos played back smoothly, at least, but with nearly 50% CPU utilization when running on socket power. Without advanced video decoding logic, the GMA 3150 won’t be able to take advantage of the video playback acceleration built into new Flash betas, either.

Performance in the real world

Intel’s latest Atom platform doesn’t have the horsepower to keep up with proper notebook processors in benchmarks. It doesn’t handle HD video playback particularly gracefully, either. So what can it do? The basics: web surfing, email, instant messaging, Skype, SD video playback, and office document manipulation.

Even those simple tasks have some caveats attached. Web surfing is relatively snappy most of the time, but Flash-heavy sites will quickly bog down the Eee PC, especially when multiple tabs are involved. You should probably stay away from multitasking, as well. Running an IM application alongside a browser is doable, but you don’t want to have too much going on, especially given the screen resolution.

Our Eee PC came loaded with Windows 7 Starter x86, and the OS feels just right for the platform. Starter lacks the eye-candy effects you’ll find in full versions of Windows, but it seems just as responsive as XP did on my old 1000HA.

The Windows 7 taskbar does take up valuable desktop real estate, though. You can drag it over to the screen’s left edge to free up additional vertical pixels, but that tends to truncate web sites designed for a display with 1024 horizontal pixels. More often than not, I found myself simply putting the browser in full-screen mode, like so:

Yes, that’s much better. 1024×600 is still a squeeze, but web pages are a lot easier to read when you’re using all of the available pixels. Unfortunately, there’s no way to expand the 1005PE’s display resolution without connecting an auxiliary monitor.

You can, however, overclock the processor, if only slightly. Asus’ SuperHybridEngine application offers a super-high-performance mode that pushes the front-side bus up to 171MHz, resulting in a CPU clock speed of 1.71GHz. The extra oomph might help when playing back video that isn’t quite smooth at stock speeds, but it doesn’t make Windows feel more responsive. You’re going to need a lot more than an extra 50MHz to make the Atom feel better than just fast enough.

Battery life

Each system’s battery was run down completely and recharged before each of our battery life tests. We used a 50% brightness setting for the Timeline, which is easily readable in normal indoor lighting and is the setting we’d be most likely to use ourselves. That setting is roughly equivalent to the 40% brightness level on the UL80Vt, Studio 14z, 1000HA, and 1005PE, which is what we used for those configurations.

For our web surfing test, we opened a Firefox window with two tabs: one for TR and another for Shacknews. These tabs were set to reload automatically every 30 seconds over Wi-Fi, and we left Bluetooth enabled, as well. Our second battery life test involves movie playback. Here, we looped a standard-definition video of the sort one might download off BitTorrent, using Windows Media Player for playback. We disabled Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for this test.

The Eee PCs were tested in their default on-battery configurations and again in high-performance mode, which runs the Atom CPU at a full speed.

Excellent battery life has been a staple of six-cell netbooks, and the Eee PC 1005PE leads the rest of the field in both of our run-time tests. You’re looking at about nine hours of web surfing time and eight hours of SD video playback, which is really quite impressive for such a lightweight and inexpensive system. Students looking to take notes and keep themselves entertained through a full day’s worth of classes shouldn’t have to resort to a wall socket with this latest Eee PC.

I do wonder just how long the Eee PC’s battery will last, though. My 1000HA used to get 4.5-5 hours of run time on its six-cell battery, but after a year of frequent (although not heavy) use, I’ve lost at least an hour and a half. The 1005PE isn’t necessarily destined to suffer the same fate, but it’s something to keep in mind. For what it’s worth, I’ve seen plenty of full-size notebook batteries degrade over time, as well.

External operating temperatures

External operating temperatures were measured with an IR thermometer placed 1″ from the surface of the system. We took these measurements after the Eee PC had run our web surfing battery life test for a couple of hours.

Yeah, Pine Trail runs cool. Only a few of the Eee PC’s surfaces get warm to the touch, and you should have no problems propping the system on your lap for hours on end, even when it’s fully loaded.

Conclusions

Pine Trail’s pseudo-system-on-chip architecture is quite a departure from the first Atom platform and an impressive achievement for Intel. Not only has the company managed to drop the number of chips and dramatically reduce the platform’s footprint, but it has also lowered power consumption by a healthy margin. Those improvements should make it easier for manufacturers to churn out slimmer and lighter netbooks with better battery life than ever before.

The coming wave of next-gen netbooks isn’t going to be any faster than the last generation, though. Intel has done little to improve the platform’s application performance and basic feature set, opting not to include the sort of advanced video decode logic that could have made Pine Trail much more capable than Menlow. At least the CPU’s digital display output supports resolutions up to 1366×768, which we hope means we’ll see more 11.6″ or larger systems based on the Atom.

Asus’ Eee PC 1005PE sticks to the old 10″ netbook formula, and it gets a lot of the little things right. The chassis is nice and solid, and the six-cell battery offers phenomenal run times. Plenty of wireless connectivity is included as standard, and there’s even a Gigabit Ethernet port. The keyboard’s quite good, too, and the touchpad is loaded with multi-touch goodness. Even the screen is nice and bright, albeit with too few pixels for my liking.

With a suggested retail price of $379, the 1005PE is an intriguing option for folks who can live with the platform’s performance limitations. Sure, something like Acer’s $400 AS1410 offers a more potent CULV Core 2 CPU and a higher 1366×768 display resolution, but it’s not going to deliver anywhere close to the Eee PC’s eight to nine hours of real-world battery life. The Acer’s keyboard doesn’t feel as good, either, even if it is bigger.

Netbooks have always been an obvious example of compromise, and the 1005PE is no different. You give up a lot of performance and functionality in exchange for awesome battery life, budget pricing, and a tiny footprint. Intel would probably be quite content to let that compromise remain intact, since netbooks have already eaten into sales of notebooks that carry higher average selling prices.

In Pine Trail, Intel has produced a better netbook platform that presents less of a threat to traditional notebooks. In the processes, it’s taken the Atom one step closer to powering the x86-compatible smart phones of the future. Netbooks might be an extremely popular—and entirely unexpected—diversion for the Atom platform, but that success doesn’t appear to have altered Intel’s plans for the Atom’s future.

Comments closed
    • link626
    • 10 years ago

    so the new hardware still can’t handle flash content….?

    that piece of shit flash. The same HD video in wmv format only uses <20% cpu, while in flash format, it uses 80% cpu.
    That’s some shitty coding.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 10 years ago

      Not quite. It can’t handle b[

        • blubje
        • 10 years ago

        wasn’t he referring to HD as well?

        he is right about Flash being very inefficient. On some videos, my core 2 2.4 GHz slowes down simply because the full screen scaling is bad. I hope html5 starts making some inroads; they are badly needed. Unfortunately Theora isn’t quite as good as x264 for compression. wmv / vc-1 is very good for compression and decoding efficiency, but I doubt msft proprietary codecs would make it into a web standard.

          • MadManOriginal
          • 10 years ago

          I guess. The first sentence is a sweeping and broad statement which is not correct then he gives an example with HD content. I’m not saying that Flash isn’t poopy just that ‘Atom can’t do Flash (at all)’ is not correct and blown out of proportion.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 10 years ago

            This is the internet. Get used to that.

    • Rza79
    • 10 years ago

    I can’t see the possibility of an ION2 running of the Intel PCH. PCI-E 1.0 4x just isn’t that fast. If ION2 is just a GPU then why call it a chipset?

    The GMA 3100 and GMA X3100 are not the same thing. You wrongly report that the GMA 3150 is based of GMA X3100 on page 1.
    The GMA 950 and 3150 have the same 3D core, so don’t expect any changes in the 3D performance departement.
    The GMA 950 has four pixel pipelines so i guess the 3150 has four too. You report that it has two.

    • Hattig
    • 10 years ago

    I feel that the lack of integrated video decode acceleration is a major omission that cripples the platform for many uses. OTOH it’s a lot better than the 1.2GHz VIA C7 in my HP 2133, but that came out in the days before Atom and has worked very well in that time for web/chat/email. There’s a lot to commend a device that’s under 3lbs and achieving 9+ hours of battery life, unlike the HP2133.

    Given the long battery charge life, they should switch to the extended recharge-count batteries that Apple uses, and integrate the battery (non-removable), thus saving some space/weight (compartment and batteyr packs) that could be used for even more battery or USB ports on the side. And they might as well solder the full 2GB of RAM on the motherboard.

    The external HD decoder chip will take up motherboard space that was meant to have been saved by this new platform.

    I can see this year being a year when dual-core ARM Cortex A9 SoCs hit the market between 1 and 2 GHz, with integrated HD decode, OpenCL, OpenGL graphics, accelerated encryption, DSPs and more, all on a single chip at a fraction of the 5.5W to 13W these chips are at. Flash 10.1 supports ARM Cortex completely. Smartbooks must be worrying Intel, and Windows 7 is their only saviour.

    • shank15217
    • 10 years ago

    Stick it up Intel’s.. market.

    • thermistor
    • 10 years ago

    Hmmm…Intel could develop a standalone graphics card solution like the red and the green. But there isn’t a business case for it – likely billions in investment, a relatively small market, and already-established players.

    Why be the johnny-come-lately? GMA 3×00 is good enuff.

    • jensend
    • 10 years ago

    Literacy fail. When I said “I wasn’t imagining they’d trade off battery life for performance” you read it as saying the opposite i.e. “I expected them to give up battery life for performance.”

    There definitely is a difference between power draw at 1.6 GHz (2.2W for the Z-series, 2.5W for the N270) and that at 800 MHz (Z500, 0.65w). So why 1.6GHz? Intel cares about performance on these enough to want to make sure that Nano doesn’t get any breathing space and that Cortex A8 doesn’t get a foothold in the notebook space, and they picked the performance level which would barely knock those two out and stuck Atom there and have kept it there.

      • OneArmedScissor
      • 10 years ago

      Reply fail.

      If it were 800 MHz, it would be borderline useless for a computer, but 1.6 GHz is passable, and as you even pointed out, it hardly increases the amount of power used. You’re just reinforcing my point.

      If they increased the clock speed further, it would continue to climb at that rate, putting it at a higher amount of power used than what you can get out of Core 2.

      It’s made for low idle power, not to be efficient. The only way they can make the same CPU faster is to increase the clock speed, which is a losing battle. And they’re not going to modify it, because they’ve already got all of the Core 2 and Core iX lines.

      I have no idea what you’re getting at. It does exactly what it’s supposed to, and no one is going to tell you that deviating from that with Atom itself makes sense.

      • Manabu
      • 10 years ago

      An 1Ghz dual-core snapdragon (Cortex A8 like core) will likely be faster than those single-core atoms in multithreaded workloads/multitasking. Let alone the 1.5Ghz ones and the 2Ghz Cortex A9.

      I thought that Intel would make an out-of-order beast, 25~50% faster than the original atom (that was really lacking) with the same or even slighty smaller power footprint. Tick, Tock. I was wrong…

      Who would think that we would have to wait for ARM to have an better performance… They don’t have an high-end market to loose for good enought computing, unlike Intel. So they can go full force in netbook and even notebooks market.

        • MadManOriginal
        • 10 years ago

        Unfortunately people want Windows on their netbooks or anything that resembles a computer more than a smartphone as shown by the way that XP on netbooks stomped out Linux.

          • Hattig
          • 10 years ago

          Microsoft like to shout about Windows “stomping” out Linux on netbooks, but the reality isn’t so black and white – some reports say a lot of people stick with Linux. With Chrome OS coming out as well, the latter half of 2010 could start getting interesting – especially as Chrome OS will likely support “Android 3” applications natively as Google have said they will bring the platforms together.

          • Manabu
          • 10 years ago

          Yeah, at least, unlike larabee, the x86 compatibility don’t give only performance problems for intel this time. It gives concreet competitive advantage by supporting desktop windows…

          Even then, linux is quite popular in netbooks if you take the data from around the world. Something like ubuntu resemble destkop windows alot (others even more), and have most of the applications you would want to use in an netbook. I’m not fan of having android or Chrome OS in netbooks, thought.

          In the notebook space it will be an more dificult battle for years to come, as it is not so easy to migrate to linux as your primary destkop.

    • Corrado
    • 10 years ago

    What are you doing to only get 5.4h out of your timeline? I run Win7 on my 3810T and get close to 9 hours of regular use….

    • Ruiner
    • 10 years ago

    Still with the single core Atoms? Those should be banished to NAS devices. A dual core Atom with accelerated Flash and a decent SSD would make a pretty fine netbook.

      • Corrado
      • 10 years ago

      The CULV stuff sips barely more than Atom and vastly out performs it. My single core 1.6ghz Core 2 Solo Acer Timeline kicks the crap out of my 1.6ghz Atom MSI Wind, and gets 3 more hours on battery. The Timeline is also thinner (albeit wider, but a 13″ screen necessitates that) Weight difference is negligible due to the differences in size of screen.

    • mczak
    • 10 years ago

    Small correction, the graphics core on G31 isn’t GMA X3100, but rather 3100. The X3100 uses a completely different graphic core (based on the gen-4 core found in i965).
    It’s a pity though the built-in 3150 seemingly doesn’t offer any non-lvds digital output. With the i945gse older netbooks at least had the chance to offer a dvi/hdmi output (by using sdvo->tmds converter chip). Now that finally just about every monitor finally offers digital input we’re back to VGA…
    btw I want to see some 3d benchmark – nothing fancy more like 3dmark20001 :-). I wonder if it really only has 2 pixel pipes, all other gen-3 intel chips have had 4, so a comparison to 945gse would reveal this.
    Oh and some die shot with some comments would be nice – all I could figure out was the cpu core is at the left, so the stuff in the middle has to be the gpu (with probably display outputs at bottom or top) and the memory interface (plus probably the dmi interface which basically is just pcie) at the right.
    And what’s the die size? Guessing by a comparison to Silverthorne I’d say about 75 mm^2 that would be quite big…
    edit: ok found die size: 66 mm^2 for single core, 86 mm^2 for dual core. That’s not too bad.

    • indeego
    • 10 years ago

    Needs a built in GPS.

    I’d love to pack this into my bag for hikesg{<.<}g

      • UberGerbil
      • 10 years ago

      It’s not hard to add an external GPS peripheral. You should probably have a handheld GPS anyway and connect it to that, so you have something self-contained you can carry if you ditch the backpack.

      But if you want integrated GPS I believe the Dell Mini 10v is one netbook that has that option.

      • ssidbroadcast
      • 10 years ago

      Right… for when you want to /[

        • indeego
        • 10 years ago

        I use it to keep track of my miles. And 90% I am getting away from it all, 10% I want to check back in and make sure Armageddon hasn’t started without meg{<.<}g

          • funko
          • 10 years ago

          smartphone can do all this!

    • d0g_p00p
    • 10 years ago

    Also I thought the N270 ran at 1.60Ghz not 1.66Ghz. Looking at my Eee 1000HA the low clocked speed is 800Mhz, not 1.33Ghz and full speed is 1.60Ghz.

    Can any TR staff comment, Geoff?

      • MadManOriginal
      • 10 years ago

      I’m not going to pick through the article to reread but the way I understood it the first time it the 1.33GHz speed is max speed on batteries while 1.66 is max speed on wall power. That was actually the first time I’d heard that.

        • d0g_p00p
        • 10 years ago

        Thanks, I’ll have to test that. I have seen my machine peak at 1.60Ghz on batteries but it’s usually at 800Mhz not plugged in. I know with the Asus power tool I can OC to 1.7Ghz so maybe the 1.66Ghz speed is that.

        Not a big issue I am just curious. Thanks for the info though.

      • Dissonance
      • 10 years ago

      Ahh, got that confused with the N280. Fixed.

      The cap I’m referring to is the clock speed ceiling on battery power, not the absolute lowest speed, though. The multiplier still cranks up to 12x on the 1000HA when it’s loaded up on battery power. Win Win7 Starter and the latest version of SuperHybridEngine, I’m actually seeing a low clock speed of 627MHz on the 1000HA (6×104.5MHz)

        • d0g_p00p
        • 10 years ago

        Got it, thanks.

      • smilingcrow
      • 10 years ago

      Nurse, it’s time for his meds again.

      • StashTheVampede
      • 10 years ago

      Seriously, where is the ban hammer?

      • MadManOriginal
      • 10 years ago

      That’s a lot of typing for not caring.

      • SomeOtherGeek
      • 10 years ago

      You know something, all you type is crap. So, if Intel is crap, you must be working for them! How is that for conspiracy theory?

      • Jigar
      • 10 years ago

      I can bet this is snakeoil

    • MadManOriginal
    • 10 years ago

    The only thing I find disappointing about Pine Trail is the low resolution digital output. It means that desktop ITX Atoms won’t be suitable for a decent resolution low power desktop without an external graphics chip. Maybe it’s ‘a ‘crippling,’ I didn’t look up previous Atom display capabilities, or maybe Intel didn’t think that decent resolution LCDs would plummet in price as they have.

    • stmok
    • 10 years ago

    Two things to note in regards to CPU speed and being DDR2 only:

    (1) There will be an *[

    • BlackStar
    • 10 years ago

    I love those ultraportables, but their CPU barely cuts it even for browsing (techreport.com for example crawls to a stop if it happens to display a flash add). Not to mention that fullscreen youtube can get pretty ugly.

    The new processors are completely underwhelming. At the very least, Intel should have given up and asked nvidia or amd to design the integrated GPU. No this won’t happen any time soon (at best they’ll go to PowerVR – and we all know how that turned out), but the result would be much better than their current GMA, sorry, “HD” offerings.

      • NeelyCam
      • 10 years ago

      Flash needs hardware HD decoders. Nvidia/AMD/Via has them. Intel had one (GMA500 in Z-series Atom platform), but dropped it.

      Idiots.

      WWWI?

        • Bauxite
        • 10 years ago

        What slowdown on tr are you talking about?

        -cell phone in the john

          • BlackStar
          • 10 years ago

          As I said, my netbook slows to a crawl when techreport displays flash ads. (Lenovo S10, happens both on Linux and Windows).

        • Skrying
        • 10 years ago

        Can we be clear on this. This hardware acceleration of “Flash” won’t help in those instances such as games or ads. It only accelerates Flash embedded video.

          • NeelyCam
          • 10 years ago

          That’s the big one. Netbooks are for surfing the Internet; Flash videos are a pretty important part of that. Ads are meant to be killed with adblock, so they don’t even matter.

          Personally I don’t play flash games, so games being slow never bothered me, but video did/does.

            • MadManOriginal
            • 10 years ago

            I’m curious, have you ever actually used an Atom-based netbook?

            Everyone is different in their uses so saying that Flash video is a part of the internet is true, but whether it matters to an individual is separate from that – UberGerbil obviously doesn’t care.

            • BlackStar
            • 10 years ago

            Yes, there are ludites that still think the web is made of text (lynx ftw!), but I’ve yet to see a netbook user who doesn’t visit youtube regularly.

            • MadManOriginal
            • 10 years ago

            Ok, have you ever actually used an Atom-based netbook though? For all the fun that Atom-bashing brings us they really aren’t *that* bad. Over the holidays I had a chance to use an Atom-based netbook (Dell mini 10) a bit. It was acceptable for surfing and was even ‘mostly OK’ for watching Hulu full-screened or Youtube. Sure, it wasn’t *quite* perfect for Flash video with occasional dropped frames but it was pretty good overall as long as you stuck to SD which given the screen size and resolution is fine. Since I see little sense in the 12″+ Atom-based ‘netbooks’ given what you can get in a CULV laptop now my experience actually using the Mini 10 made me a little less knee-jerk anti-Atom.

    • jensend
    • 10 years ago

    They put an integrated memory controller on a cache-starved processor and performance didn’t go up at all- makes you wonder whether the N450 is deliberately crippled.
    In any case they’ve gone out of their way to avoid making this a better processor in any way other than battery life. If they’d had any intention of improving the beast, a year and a half of engineering and putting an integrated memory controller in there should have brought this thing close to Pentium M performance per clock without increasing the transistor count very much.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 10 years ago

      Possible ‘crippling’ aside if it doesn’t improve with an integrated memory controller that just tells us that the latency and bandwidth doesn’t matter for the Atom.

      Your second paragraph reveals the point of the Atom. Improvements in speed are secondary to power draw and thus battery life. The Atom is designed to move x86 in to low power applications so improved battery life is exactly what we should expect rather than improved performance.

        • jensend
        • 10 years ago

        I wasn’t imagining that they’d trade off battery life for performance, and it’s true that the most obvious things which improve performance- ramping up clock speed or making the chip significantly “wider” e.g. doubling execution units- do so at the expense of power draw. However, most of the performance work that goes into a processor actually complements efforts to reduce power draw. For improving real-world battery life, the first thing you’re worried about is idle power and the second is how long it’s taking you to get to idle/how much of the time you can stay in idle; removing performance bottlenecks is thus generally a win for battery life.

        I find it hard to believe that the Atom wouldn’t be seriously affected by memory latency issues, as an in-order processor is stuck in a pipeline stall waiting for data whenever the current instruction’s operands aren’t immediately available.

          • MadManOriginal
          • 10 years ago

          I don’t know about the performance wrt the memory controller because I’m not an Intel engineer 😉 Perhaps there were enough optimizations already such that the performance benefits of an ondie memory controller don’t do much, or maybe they implemented it in such a way that it does nothing :shrug: Also ondie memory controller isn’t some panacea that’s going to boost performance by 50%, iirc from Nehalem it was estimated around 10-15% adjusting for clockspeed and whatnot. *Actually Anandtech states there’s a ~10% improvement so maybe the ondie controller does do something and it just doesn’t show up in TRs tests or in this netbook.

          As for battery life and idle vs load power the Atom was never like desktop setups where you could get large power draw differences on the order of 50-100%. Looking at a few reviews of the N270 and 230/330 the power draw difference between idle and load was low, ~5W. Now whether that’s because they are hitting some kind of wall at the bottom and can’t or don’t want to get idle lower (the latter would be bad) or they don’t want to ramp up load power draw too high I don’t know but quite close idle and load power draw is how it is.

          • OneArmedScissor
          • 10 years ago

          “I wasn’t imagining that they’d trade off battery life for performance”

          They want it in smart phones. All the improvements it sees will certainly be directed to lowering idle power use and not making it faster.

          It’s probably only 1.6 GHz because the difference between that speed and clocking it lower is negligible for computer purposes. Lots of desktop CPUs underclock to about that speed at idle, and even some CULV CPUs are permanently stuck at about that speed.

          “and it’s true that the most obvious things which improve performance- ramping up clock speed or making the chip significantly “wider” e.g. doubling execution units- do so at the expense of power draw.”

          That would pretty much just give you Core 2, though, and probably Westmere. They’ve got that covered.

          Asking for a faster Atom is asking Intel to defeat its purpose and push an inferior CPU for the wrong reasons.

          Btw, I don’t think Atom is cache starved. There have been some pretty decent CPUs with 512K cache. It’s just very slow, and it’s not meant to do much work. I’m surprised it even has that much.

          • tfp
          • 10 years ago

          It has HT for the pipeline bubbles and it is a short inorder pipe so it’s not going to need as much bandwidth. Also the ram runs at half the speed of the CPU, there was a period of time when cache did the same. I don’t think it’s starved at all.

          Changing it to OO would probably improve performance by a good amount and would probably increase the ram bandwidth usage. Like other people have said make these kinds of changes and there is already another processor out there that has these features from Intel.

            • Anonymous Coward
            • 10 years ago

            I don’t see why you point to the relative clock speeds of the Atom’s core and its RAM as if it were as good as SRAM caches of old. If I recall correctly, even the old slow “backside” L3 cache on G4’s, which was DDR running at 500mhz effective, had something like a 40ns latency. There’s no way the main RAM on a Atom can match that. Maybe it could hit 70ns if it were aggressively clocked and timed. Which it is not.

    • Voldenuit
    • 10 years ago

    l[

    • brucect
    • 10 years ago

    totally waste
    underpowered and nothing more than browsing
    I would rather spend some more for better platform and exchange with weight .

      • djgandy
      • 10 years ago

      Yeah, I mean why would you buy this when you can have an i7 and a 5870? Everyone must be idiots right?

        • brucect
        • 10 years ago

        :)) well said

    • shank15217
    • 10 years ago

    Putting a device like an ssd wouldn’t help battery life much and limit storage. They used to put ssds in netbooks but the practice stopped because it didn’t help battery life significantly. response to #7

    • shank15217
    • 10 years ago

    AMD’s bobcat processor will hand atom it’s a** on a platter. Stay tuned for 2011. Intel’s biggest weakness is it’s gfx system. They’re going to be no where close in 2011 or even in 2012. If AMD even comes out with something in 5.5 TDP range which it promises and a northbridge/IGP with around 5W TDP thats all it would need to take the atom down.

      • Skrying
      • 10 years ago

      You’re right. I’m totally going to push off a purchase until *[<2011<]* because some person on the Internet has proved 100% proof that AMD will have a awesome product. A product so good that not only will it beat the Atom processor released at least a year earlier but will likely, if you're to be trusted and you seem very credible, the 2011 revision of Atom. So good in fact that waiting until 2011 will be well worth it and all of my time spent -[

        • shank15217
        • 10 years ago

        Turn off the sarcasm, you can spend your money any way you like. Enjoy your $400 web browser.

          • UberGerbil
          • 10 years ago

          I got Atom netbook for under $200, and that is all I use it for, so yes, I have been enjoying it and expect I will through 2010 too.

          • Skrying
          • 10 years ago

          Wait you expected a serious response to what you posted? I’m shocked. Sorry!

          • djgandy
          • 10 years ago

          That’s the whole idea of it. It’s a web browser. It’s not for crysis.

          This is for people who need light internet connectivity, checking email, browsing, shopping, youtube, music.

            • Voldenuit
            • 10 years ago

            Except that the GMA 3100 can’t accelerate flash. So youtube for example is liable to chug, and anything HD will be unplayable. And with the proliferation (some may say infestation) of Flash on the ‘Net, this ‘netbook’ is not well suited to today’s internet.

            Sure Adobe is partly to blame for their resource-hogging app, but intel could have integrated a GMA 4500 for little added cost – they don’t because they have nothing better with which to maintain their artificial market segregation.

            Then again, we could spend just as much time complaining about the stagnant performance curve of Atom. Intel applying the Pauli exclusion principle to price points perhaps? :p

            • djgandy
            • 10 years ago

            A lot of people don’t even have fast enough home broadband to stream 1080p.

            Are they going to have that kinda speed on the move?

            As usual people missing the point with Intel IGP’s. The same goes here as for the desktop. If it can open e-mail and write word documents it’s good enough.

            • NeelyCam
            • 10 years ago

            ^ This. +5.

            Lack of hardware HD decode is an EPIC mistake. Even Z-series Atom platform had it.

            Huge blunder. AMD/VIA will eat Intel’s netbook lunch.

            WWWI?

            • MadManOriginal
            • 10 years ago

            nevermind, acronym mashup failure.

            • Skrying
            • 10 years ago

            We’re still talking about made up products versus a real one. Which is the entire point the first post was ridiculous. We know the AMD processor and graphics chip will be better than the current Atom and IGP but we have no clue what 2011 Atom version will be. Market pressure (and general updates) hints strongly that the IGP with 2011 Atom will have support for the video acceleration.

            • shank15217
            • 10 years ago

            I am talking about a platform road map AMD has released to an existing product. What makes you think bobcat is a “made up” product. When Intel comes back in 2011 with a faster atom then your post makes sense. Btw the AMD and Intel cpu performance gap is about 25% favoring Intel for desktop apps. The AMD and Intel GPU gap is about 2 magnitudes favoring AMD.

            • MadManOriginal
            • 10 years ago

            I think it’s more likely we’ll see some CULV-type CPU, maybe Arrandale-based, as a competitor to Bobcat. Atom is not going to get significantly faster people, it’s going to get smaller, cheaper, and have lower power draw.

            • smilingcrow
            • 10 years ago

            “Atom is not going to get significantly faster people, it’s going to get smaller, cheaper, and have lower power draw.”

            OMG, don’t say that as you’ll freak some of the speed-freaks out. 🙂
            I agree, it seems clear now that Intel is taking Atom only in that direction which makes sense as 32nm CULV will cater for the ‘Bobcat up the arse’ sector. Trademark pending.

            • shank15217
            • 10 years ago

            Atom’s TDP is clearly in the middle of AMDs bobcat territory, or did you miss the 13w TDP atom desktop?

            • Skrying
            • 10 years ago

            Because we have no clue other than a name, a estimated release date and some other information that doesn’t tell us anything real about the product. You’re extrapolating on very shaky data.

            Intel’s GPU only needs to be vast enough to accelerate video. It doesn’t need to play games at all in my opinion. I have an X3100 in my laptop right now the only issue I have is no video acceleration.

            AMD’s product will never even compete with Atom. It’s a CULV competitor, which… honestly I doubt it’ll match.

            • shank15217
            • 10 years ago

            You doubt? Based on what data? None.. You definitely don’t practice what you preach.

            • Skrying
            • 10 years ago

            Based on what data? How about the entire gap between AMD’s processors and Intel’s since the launch of the Core 2. Seems significant. Maybe if we were discussing entirely different architectures here but we’re not. You couldn’t even get your market segments correct.

            • shank15217
            • 10 years ago

            What are you clueless? First of all, this “entire gap” you speak of is at the high end, and its about 25-30% at the worst case. Bobcat is in the same market segment as atom, according to information from AMD, regardless of you may or may not think. The gap between core 2 and phenoms have been closed since Phenom IIs came out, and this is just in the desktop segment. Core 2 XEons have been outclassed since Shanghai based Opterons were out nearly 8 months ago. The core i7s are a new product to which AMD does not have a direct competitor yet but hey, I don’t see Intel’s GMA coming anywhere close to anything in AMD’s IGP portfolio.

            • Skrying
            • 10 years ago

            You’re really buying hardcore into the AMD marketing.

            The high end? Where in the world do you think the “high end” market begins? A Core i5 starts at $199. I don’t consider that high end. It easily fits into a budget for a $700 gaming computer, let alone a system focused on “important” things where $175 is saved just by buying a cheaper graphics card. That’s not high end. That’s mid range and hell even falls into the “Econobox” range without the graphics card if TR’s guides are any idea of budget marks. It also offers significant performance advantages. I love arbitrary remarks like “and its about 25-30% at the worst case.” Which is an out right lie unless your worst case is extremely narrow.

            We have no idea where Bobcat will land until it is shipping in real products that I can buy. There’s no way in hell I’m going to care what AMD has to say on the matter. I’ve seen enough from every technology company to realize such statements are useless.

            “The core i7s are a new product to which AMD does not have a direct competitor yet but hey, I don’t see Intel’s GMA coming anywhere close to anything in AMD’s IGP portfolio.”

            That’s probably my favorite bit. Yes, I’ll just wait until AMD has a product out that does compete. I mean you already suggested I wait a year already. What’s more waiting going to do? Oh that’s right, it’s going to keep me from actually doing those important things you mentioned earlier that you do so often.

            Wake up.

            • shank15217
            • 10 years ago

            “I love arbitrary remarks like “and its about 25-30% at the worst case.” Which is an out right lie unless your worst case is extremely narrow.”

            The phenom II 965 competes with the i5-750s price bracket. Now show me where you see a gap greater that 25-30%. And before you reply, it’s only the price that matters, you don’t compare the fastest of both platforms when one is obviously a generation ahead.

            Good one on me buying into AMDs marketing. Yes, anything higher than a core i5-750 does fall into the high end. Anything faster than a i7-860 falls into boutique category, that’s simply because desktop microprocessor prices have been shifting down steadily for the last 8 years, not because of AMDs marketing.

            Last thing, my comment about Bobcat is speculative, that should have been obvious. There is enough information about AMDs next generation on various sites that do hint to a very significant increase in performance for bulldozer and bobcat. This is a tech site, your so called pragmatic “wait and see” approach doesn’t bring any worthwhile discussion to the table.

            • SomeOtherGeek
            • 10 years ago

            Did you read the article? It says that 3rd party accelerator can be added. So, this is left to the nettop maker to add that functionality or not. So, let’s not go overboard just yet, I mean, c’mon, it just came out. Give it time to mature. There is a dual core version, so we don’t know shit about what it is capable of doing. For just the process and IGP (the whole point of this article really, sure there was a netbook, but it was the bare minimum) to be smaller, less power hungry and cooler tells a whole lot, so hats off to Intel!

            • Voldenuit
            • 10 years ago

            Yes, except with Pine Trail, intel gets to charge the customer (and the user) for its IGP whether it gets used or not.

            nvidia was already complaining that intel was trying to lock them out economically with bundle prices, now things will only get worse for 3rd party chipsets.

            I’m not saying that the GMA 3100 isn’t better than the GMA 950 found on older Atoms. But in the areas which really matter for netbooks – flash and video acceleration, it really is no better (MPEG-2 acceleration is irrelevant on devices without DVD drives, for instance).

            • smilingcrow
            • 10 years ago

            ‘MPEG-2 acceleration is irrelevant on devices without DVD drives, for instance’

            Not at all. I had a Samsung NC10 and sometimes used a USB tuner to watch live TV which in the UK is MPEG-2. Also I would transfer TV recordings from my desktop to the Netbook and watch those MPEG-2 videos. Not often though with a screen of that size.

            • UberGerbil
            • 10 years ago

            I don’t even install Flash, and that’s the biggest performance improvement of all.

            • Skrying
            • 10 years ago

            What do you do online then? Nothing but read? The vast majority of video is Flash, many photograph displays are done in Flash, games in Flash, etc. For all its faults Flash sure is used for basically every media application besides text on today’s web.

            I do hope HTML 5 helps fix that issue though.

            • UberGerbil
            • 10 years ago

            Yeah, read. And write. And do pretty much everything I want to do — just with less ads and less frivolous crap. Seriously, I don’t ever even notice I don’t have flash installed — other than the “holes” on web pages where it would go — except for the odd time somebody mails me a link to YouTube. Which I wouldn’t have followed anyway. None of the still photos I’ve encountered require it. None of the sites I use regularly require it (other than for ads). The occasional time I encounter a site that /[

            • Voldenuit
            • 10 years ago

            I’m with you to an extent. I abhor the proliferation of Flash-heavy pages on the web. It doesn’t help that most of the time, Flash is used to sell ads rather than improve the user experience.

            On my laptop, Flash reduces my battery life while browsing. On the desktop, it eats up CPU cycles* and causes my games to lag if I have a browser window open. Both examples detract from my computing experience, so I use Flashblock on all my machines.

            * I suspect that the much vaunted GPU-acceleration in 10.1/10.2 isn’t going to help matters either, because you’d now get your GPU taxed while gaming.

            • Skrying
            • 10 years ago

            You can’t even use the new music search feature in Google without Flash. While you may never use or even want to use that I’m simply using it as an example of how far Flash has gone. I guess imagining a the web experience without Flash (or at least a universal replacement) for me is a bit difficult because I often visit sites or use services that employ it.

            I’ve already used the new Lala powered (now with the Apple purchase I wonder how longer this will last) Google music searches dozens of times. I visit YouTube on a regular basis simply to watch unique content created by talented people. I watch TV content on Hulu often. I play a Flash-based game every now and then. I sometimes listen to a ESPN podcast form their site, which uses Flash. Unique graphics from newspapers or sites I use.

            As much as Flash gets bashed we really have no replacement for it right now. Silverlight isn’t close, doesn’t even have good enough platform support for it. Javascript when employed for some similar things is just as CPU taxing and the execution of it can get messy across multiple browsers.

            It really is funny we take it for granted. With all its negatives I think the web without Flash (or again, a universal alternative) would be much less valuable. I’m all for improvement but people who don’t have Flash even installed because of the negatives are really missing out on some great stuff.

            • UberGerbil
            • 10 years ago

            See, there’s nothing on your list that interests me at all. I’ve never subscribed to cable or sat TV because watching videos just doesn’t appeal to me enough to justify it. It’s not like I’m making any special effort to avoid Flash sites — quite literally I never see a site that requires it, and only rarely see sites that use it (some news sites have videos, and lots of sites have ads, but thats about it). Like I said, I do have it installed on one machine if there’s something I absolutely want to see that uses Flash, but I go weeks, often months, without the need to do that.

            • shank15217
            • 10 years ago

            Have you ever tried to open up a couple of pdf’s, outlook and maybe word 2007 on an atom netbook? Not very pretty..

            • UberGerbil
            • 10 years ago

            Well if you’re using Adobe Reader that’s the majority of your problem right there. And given that a lot of netbooks are 1GB, you’re going to be paging to disk pretty quickly too — and that’s slow no matter what CPU you’re using.

            • shank15217
            • 10 years ago

            I changed to foxit reader, the footprint is smaller however, there really isn’t any good substitute for office 2007. I also use chrome and upgraded to 2 gb of ram. Even so called light weight usage can be taxing. Try opening an excel worksheet with a few graphs.. ouch. The single core atom is anemic, its nothing but an expensive toy that will eventually fill up our land fills with more computer garbage. Its not even fast enough to do today’s apps. It like using a comp from early 2002 in 2010. I bought into the whole low power, portability thing and bought one of these but I do too much useful work on a computer in a given day to use this. Its such a niche product (in terms performance / watt) but it sells so well because its cheap. You may have bought one of these as a toilet seat computer but many people will get attracted to the price and buy themselves back to the late pentium 3 era in performance.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 10 years ago

      to me an Athlon Neo netbook is better than one of these, though it does have higher power consumption. The difference is I think I’d be happy with an Athlon Neo netbook. I would not with an Atom netbook. An Atom home server? Well that’s a different story – that would be just fine.

      • smilingcrow
      • 10 years ago

      “AMD’s bobcat processor will hand atom it’s a** on a platter.”

      If it has better battery life and runs cooler then great otherwise you can stick it up your a**. (platter optional)

        • shank15217
        • 10 years ago

        Well, thats the bobcat’s market. So, yes I expect amazing things from it.

          • MadManOriginal
          • 10 years ago

          You mean the stick it up your ass market?

    • codedivine
    • 10 years ago

    I would like to point out that GMA 3150 seems derived from GMA 3100 and not GMA X3100.

      • Ushio01
      • 10 years ago

      According to wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_GMA) I don’t see any difference in the spec between GMA 950 and 3100 except of course the lower power consumption. Though it does say 4 pxel pipelines not 2.

      Also wouldn’t a 1280×720 resolution like the nokia booklet be a better resolution than 1366×768 for such a small screen?

        • UberGerbil
        • 10 years ago

        I saw that Nokia for the first time at BB the other day. Really nice in the physical details but way, way, waaaay over priced.

    • Ricardo Dawkins
    • 10 years ago

    Good review. Atom and netbooks are here to stay not matter what the bag of hurt named Apple says.

      • UberGerbil
      • 10 years ago

      Well, they might want to put something like Tegra into that space as a sort of giant iPhone.

        • Kurotetsu
        • 10 years ago

        Theres been talk of Tegra netbooks before (running Chrome OS most likely), so that may not be a farfetched idea.

        • zima
        • 10 years ago

        Why have you people bought into Nvidia PR so much? Yes, Tegra is quite good, especially at HD video playback (as if that matters in ultraportables…)

        But it has ancient ARM core, ARM11. There are better solutions already, with Cortex-A8 (at least 1.5x faster per clock)

      • nagashi
      • 10 years ago

      I don’t think apple said they weren’t around to stay, they said that they don’t know how to make a high quality machine for $400. Having handled a few $400 netbooks, I see their point. I also see the point of buying a $400 notebook knowing that you’re going to have to replace it every couple years.

        • OneArmedScissor
        • 10 years ago

        $400 will get you a CULV Core 2 laptop that you shouldn’t really ever be forced to replace. Netbooks will hit $200 very shortly and have already been sinking below $250.

        What Apple are saying is that they don’t want to sell anything for $400, period.

          • MadManOriginal
          • 10 years ago

          Exactly. Jobs said ‘We don’t know how to design a computer below $500 that’s not crap’ but the unsaid part was ‘while maintaining our margins.’

    • statrekgeneral
    • 10 years ago

    mmm…… Kinda wish techreport would do a full review on the ul30vt, yes i know its the same as the ul80vt, but im interested to see the impact of the smaller screen and i think a different size battery. also i wonder what the impact of an ssd… say an intel x-25 g2 on the battery life of these ultraportables and netbooks would be

      • Bauxite
      • 10 years ago

      I didn’t notice a huge difference by using a SSD, a laptop hard drive really isn’t a huge power guzzler.

      Granted I don’t run TR-esque detailed runtime tests, and I tend to not let my battery run low in the first place, but the drain of a few hours seemed about the same.

      And yeah, I crammed a g2 into a $400 culv but it made running a dozen VMs at once butter smooth. A portable virtual network that boots or reverts in seconds is quite handy.

        • d0g_p00p
        • 10 years ago

        I some how cannot seem to fit culv, 12 vm’s and butter smooth together.

      • UberGerbil
      • 10 years ago

      LED backlights have more of an impact on power usage than SSDs do. Compared to 3.5″ drives, 2.5″ mobile drives — even the 7200 rpm ones — use remarkably little power
      §[< http://www.storagereview.com/HTS722020K9A00.sr?page=0,5<]§

    • UberGerbil
    • 10 years ago

    I understand the battery life tests are the most time-consuming, though you don’t have to babysit the machines the entire time, but I’ve realized there’s actually a different test that most interests me. Generally IME it’s easier to find a power plug than an ethernet port, so anytime I’m using wired networking I’m also plugged into the wall. When I’m using the battery I’m usually also using WiFi — this is the bar/cafe/departure lounge usage case. Thus it would be nice to see the battery life tests run using WiFi.

    Of course WiFi introduces some new variables — and not just design details like antenna design and placement within the machine or 3rd party wireless chipsets — you have to worry about the access point, the position of the test machine relative to it, and any interference that might be occurring (is somebody on a cordless phone?)

    But even caveatted up the wazoo I still think it would be interesting.

      • Damage
      • 10 years ago

      Web surfing test uses Wi-Fi. Only the movie-watching test doesn’t.

        • UberGerbil
        • 10 years ago

        Ah, was skimming the results and saw the “We disabled Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for this test” thought it applied to both. Thanks, and sorry. Nothing to see here. Carry on.

        • shank15217
        • 10 years ago

        Most li-ion batteries lose 20-25% of their charge in 1 year. I would expect a drop from 8 hours to 6:30 hours in 1 year or so on avg on these laptops.

    • SecretMaster
    • 10 years ago

    What’s it weigh?

      • UberGerbil
      • 10 years ago

      Nice of you to keep the meme alive. Of course in this case, the weight actually is in the story.

      2.8lbs. 1.27kg for the metric folks

        • ssidbroadcast
        • 10 years ago

        That’s pretty light actually.

      • SomeOtherGeek
      • 10 years ago

      It is worst its weight in gold?

    • ssidbroadcast
    • 10 years ago

    Anyone who says ‘first’ will be wrong.

      • grantmeaname
      • 10 years ago

      You said first and you weren’t wrong.

      So there.

      And look, now I’m right too. And look at what the third word of my post is!

      • Chrispy_
      • 10 years ago

      Forty-seventh!

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