Intel’s Atom Processor: Benchmarked

ASUS did not want us publishing benchmarks using the Eee Box until it was final, so we had to turn to a competing platform to actually measure the performance of Intel’s Atom. The setup we have here is similar to the Eee Box with three changes: 1) we’re running Vista, 2) we’re using a desktop hard drive and 3) we’re using 2GB of memory. The processor is clocked at the same 1.6GHz as the Atom in the Eee Box and although the motherboard is different, the chipset/graphics are the same.

Intel has frequently promised performance close to that of a Pentium M processor with the Atom, and now we’re finally able to investigate that claim. We compared the Atom to three CPUs:

Intel Celeron 420 (1.6GHz) - The Celeron 420 based on a 65nm Conroe-L core, which is a single-core member of the Core 2 family with only a 512KB L2 cache. Clock for clock the Conroe-L should be much faster than Atom, but this comparison is nice to give a reference point for Atom's performance today.

Intel Pentium M "Dothan" - This has always been Intel's comparison point for Atom. Based on its architecture, Atom should have lower performance than the Pentium M at the same clock speed but we tested at two clock speeds to hopefully find a reasonable range of performance where Atom behaves similarly. Dothan, if you don't remember, was the second Centrino CPU built on a 90nm process and equipped with a very large 2MB L2 cache.

CPU:

Intel Atom Z530 (1.6GHz)
Intel Celeron 420 (1.6GHz)
Intel Pentium M 725 "Dothan" (1.6GHz)
Intel Pentium M "Dothan" (800MHz)

Motherboard: ASUS P5LD2EB-DHS (Atom)
Intel DG35EC (Celeron 420)
ASUS P4P800 (Dothan)
Chipset: Intel 945G (Atom)
Intel G35 (Celeron)
Intel 865 (Dothan)
Chipset Drivers:

Intel 8.1.1.1010

Hard Disk: Western Digital Green 1TB
Memory: DDR2-667 4-4-4-12 (1GB x 2)
DDR-400 (1GB x 2)
Video Card: IGP/GeForce 6600 (for Dothan platform)
Video Drivers: Intel 15.7.3.1409
NVIDIA ForceWare 169.25
Desktop Resolution: 1920 x 1200 (Vista Basic Theme)
OS: Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit SP1

 

We kept all variables the same as much as possible, obviously the Celeron 420, Pentium M and Atom all had to use different motherboards but we kept everything else from memory size to hard disk the same in order to make this as much of a CPU comparison as possible.

Performance & Power Consumption Memory Subsystem and SYSMark Performance of the Atom
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  • mauriceh - Monday, September 15, 2008 - link

    I am at a ASUS dealer in Canada.
    So far all we have had available is the model with XP , 80Gb, 1GB RAM.
    DEALER Wholesale on this unit is $349, and there is a kickback of $20 a unit if you buy 100 pieces.
    Further ASUS can not tell us of ANY ETA for the Linux model.

    It looks VERY much like M$ are throwing some weight against this.
    Reply
  • yuhong - Sunday, June 15, 2008 - link

    I wonder exactly what was the bottleneck that made Vista feel so slow on this system. Reply
  • Rza79 - Tuesday, June 03, 2008 - link

    It would have been great if you would have included results without Hyperthreading. Then i can get a better understanding in how the Atom performs in single threaded applications and how efficient Hyperthreading is.
    It would be meaningful to include a Via C7 1.6Ghz because then i could know how the Atom performs compared to the C7 (and Nano since Via released comparisons between them).
    Reply
  • hermunn - Tuesday, June 03, 2008 - link

    I miss having a Linux / FreeBSD computer on my own, and I really want something like the EeeBox. I will use it for text editing (emacs + LaTeX), web and email. My girlfriend hogs my old TiBook, and I would love to restrict the use of Windows as much as possible. My current employer (college) use Office and has supplied me with a Windows XP computer. I do not enjoy it. A Linux computer will allow me to do research (emacs + LaTeX for the win) in a safe environment. It will also be the base configuration for my small (tiny) programming projects.

    Why something like an EeeBox? First of all, I want a Linux box that is quiet and cheap, and the EeeBox is more then powerful enough for my needs (LaTeX, web, email, Singular, ..). I will buy an EeeBox if they manage to make the final version quiet, and nothing clearly better is available.

    I imagine a small but significant number of geeks who see one and two uses for the EeeBox as a third or fourth computer, and a horde of computer literates who see the EeeBox as a nice first Linux computer. The hardware is designed to be 100% compatible with Linux, and the distribution will be focused on usability. A less steep learning curve than most other ways into the Linux world.
    Reply
  • pmonti80 - Tuesday, June 03, 2008 - link

    Anand you say that EEE Box can't play better than 720p at 4.5mbps but wich codec where you using?. Core AVC codec is know to be very efficient and it would be interesting to know if buying this codec would be enough to make Atom a CPU to watch HD content. Reply
  • pmonti80 - Tuesday, June 03, 2008 - link

    A benchmark of a 1.6Ghz VIA C7 would be interesting too. Reply
  • JimmiG - Tuesday, June 03, 2008 - link

    I could easily find a third PC useful. I would set it up in the kitchen or living room or another convenient location, with a ~15" LCD and compact mouse and keyboard. It would be used for email, web browsing and maybe music (a simple analog cable to the amplifier aux in would be enough for me). However the next generation EeePC would also fill this function while taking up less space and being portable. Another option is the very stylish, but still somewhat overpriced (for the specs), Mac Mini. I think the Eee Box can be thought of as a cheaper Mini.

    With wireless networking, I could make the any one of those little machines access e.g. my mp3 or photo collection from the main rig.

    For it to be useful, there are some requirements:
    1. Fast boot times - if it takes minutes to boot, I might as well walk to my main PC or borrow my gf's.

    2. Near-silent operation. One reason to use such a PC instead of my main rig when just browsing the net etc. would be noise levels. My main PC is not extremely noisy, but it's far from silent. I'd prefer a passively cooled mini-pc with a 16GB or bigger solid state drive, to be able to lazily browse the web in peace and quiet.

    3. It needs wireless networking that works out of the box. It needs to be able to detect and use anything I might think of plugging into it, like cameras, mp3 players, input peripherals, printers (also networked) etc. There needs to be support for all the video formats and web functionality, and programs preinstalled for all common tasks.. and so on. It shouldn't feel like I'm using a PC.. It should be like using any other piece of consumer electronics.. turn it on and start using it.

    In my experience, MacOS is most likely to accomplish this, followed by Linux, then XP/Vista. XP is pretty "bare bones" when it comes to such functionality, requiring drivers and third party apps to do anything useful.. Vista Basic isn't much better. Linux distros tend to come bundled with pretty much everything you need. But the OS also needs to be "polished" and "work".. Not like the latest version of Ubuntu for example.. Very user friendly and polished.. until it was time to try and get online using my USB wlan dongle...no amount of friendly dialog boxes or big helpfiles would allow me get online... How useful is a computer if you can't even get online? It was the usual Linux routine of reading "howto's" and forums, then entering cryptic commands and editing textfiles, most of the time not understanding a thing of what you're doing. For the hobbyist, that's OK - but on a PC bordering on “consumer electronics”, it's not acceptable and it's Linux distro needs to be more polished and refined than that.
    Reply
  • Truxy - Tuesday, June 03, 2008 - link

    A small office of 25 PCs I consult for has been waiting for something just like this to come along for a while now. There's a room so small that is intermittantly used all day, with 3 full sized PCs that take up too much of the available space and cause way too much heat. We dabbled in using some shuttle PCs but it didn't work out (power supplies were blowing too often).

    I'll be ordering two to test drive ASAP and hopefully order more soon after.
    Reply
  • ATWindsor - Tuesday, June 03, 2008 - link

    I guess this is a pretty stupid question, but how does the monitor-mount work? Does one have to remove sthe existing foot of the monitor? Or can one just attach the computer on the back of a normal monitor?

    And to bad its not fanless.
    Reply
  • autoboy - Tuesday, June 03, 2008 - link

    I'm still waiting on the results for mpeg2 1080i decoding...

    The 945 has hardware acceleration for mpeg2 (VLD + iDCT + MC) so it should be more capable as a slim player for people who use mpeg2 more often than h.264. I use an HDHR to record my programs and an R5000 so everything is in mpeg2 720p or 1080i (or 480i SD but we know that works fine. Any chance we can add that to the benchmarks?
    Reply

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