Imagination Technologies: Atom-based Netbooks With Poulsbo

I met up with Imagination Technologies, makers of the PowerVR SGX graphics core that’s used in Intel’s Poulsbo chipset - the ideal companion for the Atom processor. Most netbooks to date have shipped with Intel’s 945G chipset, but we’re finally starting to see models come out with Poulsbo. The biggest advantages to Poulsbo are much lower power consumption as well as hardware video decode acceleration for all of the major codecs (MPEG-2, VC-1, H.264).

Quake III Arena + Cyberlink PowerDVD playing Blu-ray quality content, all on a netbook

I got a quick demo of a Dell Inspiron Mini 12 decoding a 1080p H.264 Blu-ray rip (20 - 35Mbps) while running through a Quake III timedemo. The video clip didn’t drop any frames and the Quake III demo ran at above 30 fps. The engineers on hand indicated that a real concern in these sorts of situations isn’t the GPU horsepower, the PowerVR SGX core can easily handle the two tasks, but rather memory bandwidth. Poulsbo only supports a single channel of DDR2-533 memory, barely enough bandwidth by today’s standards.

The Imagination Technologies staff also ran a dual stream video decode demo where they had a Atom/Poulsbo netbook playing one 8Mbps H.264 video and a 1080p H.264 video on an external display, simultaneously. Again, memory bandwidth is the only limitation here - the Atom never peaked above 29% CPU utilization.

Imagination Technologies also announced the PowerVR SGX543 at the show, a much faster (up to 40%) graphics core than what’s in Poulsbo. The SGX543 will probably show up in designs in about 2 years.

Four H.264 streams from Apple's Trailers website, all playing at the same time, without so much as a hiccup on Atom/Poulso

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View All Comments

  • vjoose - Friday, March 13, 2009 - link

    Somebody please send a copy of this vista driver to my mail box...

    Enough suffers with the fxxking Intel driver. I just can't hold myself dreaming of turning my mini 12 to the one shown in CES ...
  • icrf - Tuesday, January 13, 2009 - link

    "The Imagination Technologies staff also ran a dual stream video decode demo where they had a Atom/Poulsbo netbook playing one 8Mbps H.264 video and a 1080p H.264 video on an external display, simultaneously."

    I thought Poulsbo could only output 1366x768, so it's not outputting 1080p anywhere.">
  • syrup1971 - Monday, March 23, 2009 - link

    The Video decoder, can decode 1080P video, so it is showing a 1080P video, which is scaled using the graphics core, to format for the display. The display pipeline is capable of higher resolutions than 1366x768, as witnessed for example in Sonys vaio P, with its 1600x768 display. Reply
  • sprockkets - Sunday, January 11, 2009 - link

    The HP pictures are wrong. The first two are the new HP Linux GUI interface netbook,">

    The other one must be the business one. I recently used a Dell Mini 9. Keyboard is a bit too small. But those HP ones are nice.
  • JonnyDough - Saturday, January 10, 2009 - link

    "Intel gave a few examples of how this system could be used. Say the car in front of yours with this system in place applied its breaks (hence illuminating the LED brake lights), data embedded in those lights can be sent to your car and processed by an onboard computer (powered by an Intel Atom, of course). The computer could then either warn you that the car in front of you is slowing down or even apply the brakes for you."

    I just wanted to say that this is going to present major problems. People will get used to auto-braking and the sound that tones when someone in front of you brakes. Ice over the sensor or headlights, a dead sensor, or a dead pulse switch is going to leave you in the rear-end of the car in front of you.

    Oh, and Anandtech: Quote button doesn't work right.
  • sprockkets - Saturday, January 10, 2009 - link

    Cars apply their "breaks" all the time, huh? Reply
  • vailr - Friday, January 9, 2009 - link

    Re: "The SGX543 will probably show up in designs in about 2 years."
    I'd tend to doubt that statement. I'm guessing: more like one year or less. Also: there was a mention somewhere online about a dual-core Atom CPU being in development. Any news about that?
  • Penti - Friday, January 9, 2009 - link

    Dual core atoms is available today it's called Atom 330 which is a 8W TDP dual-core desktop Atom. Reply
  • ebayne - Friday, January 9, 2009 - link

    The same folks who bought the jellybean colored macbooks will buy the Sony in droves. For the same reason. They're cute. Women, students and metrosexual execs will line up to purchase it because it looks "nice" and because all their friends want them. Feature conscious road-warriors aren't Sony's target demographic. Reply
  • JimmiG - Friday, January 9, 2009 - link

    That Sony netbook doesn't even look very good IMO. I like the look of that new HP Mini a lot more.

    I also agree that Atom-powered netbooks only make sense in the <$400 segment. Even with a GeForce GPU, there just isn't enough raw CPU power to justify spending $600 or more on an Atom netbook. If you want to spend more, just buy a 13" Core2 machine with better graphics. I do like my $290 Aspire One, though.

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