Last August in our Atom N550 article, we hinted that Intel will release their next generation Atom platform in mid-2011. As we mentioned in that article, the codename for this platform is “Cedar Trail”, and today we have some further details to share. Cedar Trail (and the Cedarview-D processors) won’t quite make it out in mid-2011 as we previously reported; they are now slated for a Q4 2011 release.

The CPU and GPU are a single die based on Intel's 32nm technology. The smaller process allows Intel to boost the clock speeds while keeping TDP the same or even lowering it. Cedar Trail will continue to use the same NM10 chipset as its predecessor, with two models at its introduction. The following table summarizes the current and near-future Intel Atom lineup.

Intel’s Atom Lineup
Model D410 D510 D425 D525 D2500 D2700
Core/Thread Count 1/2 2/4 1/2 2/4 2/2 2/4
Frequency (GHz) 1.66 1.66 1.83 1.83 1.86 2.13
L2 Cache (KB) 512 1024 512 1024 1024 1024
RAM Type DDR2 DDR2 DDR2/3 DDR2/3 DDR3 DDR3
TDP (W) 10 13 10 13 10 10
GPU Type DX9 DX9 DX9 DX9 DX10.1 DX10.1

The core architecture remains unchanged, so CPU performance should be the same as previous Atom processors, only with higher clock speeds. We won’t see a new Atom architecture until mid- to late-2012. Interesting to note is that no single-core Atom CPUs are listed at present, so both Pineview-D processors are dual-core, only the D2500 disables Hyper-Threading support. It should be a decent upgrade from the previous single-core + HTT D425, but overall CPU performance will end up lower than the D525 in situations that can leverage four threads. The D2700 on the other hand is a straight 16% clock speed increase over the D525. We’ll have to see how that translates into real-world application performance when the chips arrive.

The roadmap also indicates the possibility of a marginal update to Intel’s existing Pine Trail lineup in Q3 2011. If that happens, it will likely consist of 2.0GHz single-core and dual-core Atom chips, but without the GPU upgrades will continue to struggle with video content.

The most interesting bit of information is probably the IGP, where we unfortunately have only vague details for now. Cedar Trail will feature full support for DirectX 10.1 and HD decoding (MPEG2, VC1, AVC, and H.264) with Blu-Ray 2.0 support. The display options have also been greatly improved, including HDMI 1.3a, DisplayPort 1.1, eDP (embedded DisplayPort), LVDS, and VGA. The IGP will also be able to drive up to two displays. A block diagram indicates that Intel is adding a “Media” functional unit to the chip, but that’s likely just a part of the IGP.

There is no word about the IGP architecture, clock speeds, or supported resolutions. Presumably it will use a cut down version of Arrandale’s HD Graphics, possibly with a lower EU count (e.g. 6 EUs instead of 12). Regardless, the IGP will be a big step up from GMA 3150 with lots of new features. Most importantly, it finally solves the issue of HD video playback support. Overall performance is still a bit of a mystery, so we cannot give any concrete numbers, but we still have enough to get started.

The big question is going to be how these new Atoms stack up against AMD’s Brazos. The AMD E-350 beat the D510 quite easily, which is the same chip as D525 but with a 166MHz (8%) lower clock speed. Outside of the GPU improvements, the D2700 should only be around 16% faster than D525, which means the E-350 might come in slower in certain CPU tests. However, single-threaded performance is still likely to be faster on E-350—we’d estimate up to a 25% lead in some use cases. Since heavily threaded workloads are not the domain of Atom (or Brazos), it looks as though the E-350 will continue to be very competitive. The E-350 does have a higher 18W TDP, which does work against it somewhat, but it turned out to do much better in our energy efficient tests. Power will be a far bigger concern on laptops and netbooks, however, so we won’t worry much about that aspect for now.

The other point of comparison is in the graphics arena. The E-350’sRadeon HD 6310 IGP is a powerhouse. It’s about as fast as the Intel HD 2000 found in some of the Sandy Bridge CPUs. Unless Cedar Trail’s IGP uses HD 2000 rather than Arrandale’s HD Graphics, it will still be behind AMD’s offerings. As we’ve noted elsewhere, however, gaming on either platform is so heavily CPU-limited that you’ll want to stick with older titles. Since we know very little about the IGP in Cedar Trail, it’s hard to draw any firm conclusions, and driver quality is still a point of contention. At least Atom is finally getting an upgrade from the stone-age GMA 950/3150 era, which will hopefully enable HD streaming video.

Ultimately, Cedar Trail continues from where the Pine Trail left us, meaning that it will be targeted at sub-$300 netbooks, although it is possible that the D2700 could find its way into ~$400 laptops/netbooks as well. Like previous generations, these new Atoms are intended for basic computing tasks, such as web browsing, email, and instant messaging. Intel doesn’t want to take away sales from their more capable platforms, so for example the Celeron B810 should be at least three times faster than D2700 for only about $75 more (including a basic motherboard). Intel also continues to suggest 1GB of RAM for Atom setups, and as long as nettop and netbook vendors adhere to that recommendation Atom will underwhelm.

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  • Guspaz - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    These things have pretty similar performance and power usage to the first Atom chips released *three years* ago. High clocked dual core Cortex A9 chips are already more performant than Atom chips, and at significantly lower power levels to boot. If this is the best Intel can do after three years, ARM is going to swallow the Atom's entire marketshare in one gulp. Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    So why is it that I can find half a dozen atom netbooks on sale for under $180, but I cannot find a brazos netbook for under $280, even though the brazos chip is $10 cheaper? Where is that extra $110 going? We are talking about more than 50% of the cost of the entire netbook here, and nobody is talking about this? Reply
  • sbrown23 - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    Supply vs demand, vendors knowing they can get more because of higher performance?

    More memory shipped with the Brazos units (2GB vs 1GB)?

    Higher Atom volumes, thus lower production costs per unit?

    Brazos on more 11.6" screens vs 10" Atom netbooks?

    I'd imagine some bit of each of those plays into it.
    Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    Memory is only $8 more for 2GB, vs 1GB. Probably only $5 difference at the OEM level. The only thing that makes sense to me is sheer volume of intel builds. They order 5 million atoms and 5 million chipsets and they can afford to sell each netbook for only $20 markeup, especially if the first 200,000 units sell for $50 markup. But when they do an AMD build they only order 100k chips and 100k chipsets, so the volume just isnt there. This is why it never even mattered that AMD once upon a time had a chip that was 50% faster, dollar per dollar. In order to change things they would need a chip that is 100% faster, dollar for dollar. Imagine a i-5-2500k and 7 GHz. That is about what it would take for AMD to change things. And they'd have to sustain that sort of performance edge for many years. Reply
  • StormyParis - Saturday, April 30, 2011 - link

    Please do show me where I can buy that $8, not only brand-name but OEM-name, GB of RAM.

    Looking around, I indeed could only see 10", 1GB Atom netbooks at my usual web store, vs 11.6", 2GB Brazos ones. I havent checked for other differences, there may be some, including "qualitative" ones due to more recent release.

    In my personal case, I'm not looking for a netbook but a DIY nettop and a NAS server, and I'll be glad to shell out 150 euros for Asus's Brazos mini-ITX board, instead of a $60-$80 Atom one: EFI instead of BIOS, SATA3, USB3, 5 SATA ports, HDMI 1.3b. There are Brazos boards with essentially the same specs starting at 90 euros. Asus has some nice integrated extras though: fully passive cooling, WIFI N, Bluetooth, regular DIMM RAM.

    Apart from the slightly superior CPU, clearly superior GPU, and even more clearly superior platform, my guess is AMD is still a bit capacity-constrained, hence the prices, and the fact that mostly premium brands/products are featuring Brazos right now.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Sunday, May 01, 2011 - link

    Newegg has 1gb Kingston DDR3-1333 sodimms for $13, and 2gb sodimms for $20 (team brand) or $23 (gskill). $10 for brandname, vs $7 for generic is close enough to cover randomish price fluctuations.. Reply
  • Arbie - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    I can understand grading or binning parts by attainable clock speed, and I can understand product differentiation in the desktop market where the merits of the cpu are often independently considered.

    But where the chips are destined for laptops and especially for netbooks, I doubt that the same rules hold. If I'm shopping for a netbook there are many more considerations than the exact model of the cpu. Does anyone buying these things say "Maybe I'll save $9.50 and do without the double threading, but I do want the extra cache", or whatever? In this market it's much more of a whole-package deal.

    So, I think Intel and the other makers, and the system builders, and all consumers, would benefit if the mobile chip model lines were differentiated only by true binning parameters. Purposely disabling features to create another flavor is just silly. When these products actually get to market, nobody is paying attention, but a lot of people will get less than they could have at the same price. And they'll probably remember nothing more than the brand: "That laptop had an Intel chip and was really slow".
    Reply
  • bji - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    I have tested these two processors quite extensively doing benchmarking for a MAME cabinet build. The Brazos is in the neighborhood of 60% faster in single threaded workloads than the Atom 330 that I tested (which is at most 10% slower than the newer Atoms). When multi-threaded workloads come into play, the advantage of Brazos dips to about 25%. I was surprised that hyperthreading is as effective as it is, it's obviously not like having 2 extra cores but in heavily multithreaded coded it does give a noticeable speed improvement. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    So MAME is about 60% faster on E-350 than an Atom 330. Now factor in the 10% improvement you mention, and E-350 is only about 45% faster (e.g. 100 vs. 160 becomes 110 vs. 160). Now consider that your Atom 330 runs at 1.60GHz, but the new Atom D2700 will run at 2.13GHz. That's another 33% improvement from clock speed, so in theory the comparison would become 146 vs. 160, which works out to E-350 being 10% faster. But things don't scale linearly with clock speed, so saying "about 25% faster" is going to be pretty accurate, and often it will be less than that.

    But of course, D2700 probably won't be competing directly against E-350 come December.
    Reply
  • bji - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    Sorry I misread the article and thought it was making a comparison between current Atoms and current Brazos. I agree with your conclusions based on performance estimates for next generation Atoms. Thank you for the correction. Reply

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