Understanding Atom: Three Models for the Same CPU

Let me clear up some naming confusing regarding Atom. While there’s only one Atom processor, it comes in two different versions: Silverthorne and Diamondville. Silverthorne is the version intended for use in MIDs (Mobile Internet Devices), it’s a part of the Z5xx series. Diamondville is the version intended for desktops, notebooks and netbooks - it’s the N2xx, 2xx and 3xx series. The N2xx is used for netbooks, while the 2xx and 3xx are used for desktops. The 3xx is a dual core version of Diamondville. The 2xx and 3xx chips simply draw more power than the N2xx. They also support 64-bit instructions, while the rest of the lineup is 32-bit only.

That's Atom, in case you've forgotten

Performance between Silverthorne and Diamondville at the same clock speed is identical. Silverthorne uses a CMOS bus interface instead of a GTL FSB, which consumes less power but also means that it won’t work with conventional desktop chipsets. Silverthorne is thus paired with Intel’s Poulsbo chipset (sold under the UL11/US15 chipset name).

Diamondville supports the standard GTL FSB interface, and will thus work with desktop Intel chipsets. This version won’t work with Poulsbo, but will work with 945G as well as NVIDIA’s GeForce 9400M. Anything that can work with a Core 2 or Pentium 4 processor should be able to work with Diamondville.

Both versions are sold under the Atom name, they simply carry different model numbers. I’ve summarized everything in the table below:

  # of Cores/Threads Clock Speed/L2 FSB 64-bit Target Market TDP Price
Intel Atom 330 2/4 1.6GHz / 512KBx2 533MHz GTL+ Y Desktops/Notebooks 8.0W $43
Intel Atom 230 1/2 1.6GHz / 512KB 533MHz GTL+ Y Desktops/Notebooks 4.0W $29
Intel Atom N270 1/2 1.6GHz / 512KB 533MHz GTL+ N Netbooks 2.5W $44
Intel Atom Z540 1/2 1.86GHz / 512KB 533MHz CMOS N MIDs 2.4W
2.6W w/ HT
Intel Atom Z530 1/2 1.60GHz / 512KB 533MHz CMOS N MIDs 2.0W
2.2W w/ HT
Intel Atom Z520 1/2 1.33GHz / 512KB 533MHz CMOS N MIDs 2.0W / 2.2W w/ HT $40
Intel Atom Z510 1/1 1.1GHz / 512KB 400MHz CMOS N MIDs 2.0W $20
Intel Atom Z500 1/1 800MHz / 512KB 400MHz CMOS N MIDs 0.65W $20


I had to get that out of the way because some manufacturers are opting to go with Silverthorne for their notebooks, while others are using Diamondville. And the model numbers are different enough to be confusing, despite fundamentally being the same processor. Just to reiterate, an Intel Atom Z530 offers the same performance as an Intel Atom N270, they both work at 1.60GHz.

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  • ameatypie - Thursday, January 22, 2009 - link

    I can agree with the Call of Duty 4 bit... terrible game.
  • phusg - Monday, January 19, 2009 - link

    Yes nVidia I want a netbook that will playback all HD video and can output it over HDMI! Get one on the market, the Asus N10J desperately needs some competition...
  • insaneramblings - Friday, January 16, 2009 - link

    Whenever testing a new platform, particularly small form factors, I'd really like to know the media it can handle. Is this suitable for Standard Definition (SD) playback only? Can it handle BluRay? How about MKV high-definition and AC3? Can it be used as a media extender?

    To my mind telling us how this thing handles COD is a waste. Verifying that it can be plugged into a TV to serve all kinds of media would be very useful.
  • nubie - Sunday, January 18, 2009 - link

    "NVIDIA allowed me to benchmark the two systems in a handful of tests"

    I am going to go out on a limb and assume that nVidia didn't let them test it with BluRay.
  • bohhad - Wednesday, January 14, 2009 - link

    was that little black box in his hand at the start of the article a mini pc of some kind? sign me up, and a usb dvd drive and a usb tv tuner and call it a dvr
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, January 14, 2009 - link


    The box is basically a technology demonstrator for the CPU/GPU combo.

    Would the GPU be able to help with the use of a USB TV tuner? I'm guessing a single-core Atom couldn't handle the load alone, maybe a dual-core version could.
  • mindless1 - Wednesday, January 14, 2009 - link

    Don't the typical USB TV tuners already convert it to MPEG, to resolve the matter of bandwidth if for no other reason? In that case it should handle it fine with the IGP assisting.
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, January 15, 2009 - link

    I know the one I bought on Black Friday called for at least a 1.86GHz Pentium M, I haven't yet tried it on my laptop to see if it will actually run smoothly and how much CPU is needed.
  • tonjohn - Tuesday, January 13, 2009 - link

    I'm DYING to have one of these.

    I'm looking for an energy efficient, small footprint computer with HDMI output and this looks like a dream come true.

    Is there any idea as to when products based on ION might be hitting the market?
  • ET - Tuesday, January 13, 2009 - link

    I've played games on my Fujitsu P1510D, which is probably about as powerful as current netbooks. It wasn't fun, I can tell you, but when you're abroad and that's all you're carrying, it's better than nothing. And I always carry a wireless notebook mouse with my, too.

    In fact, one of the reasons I haven't upgraded my P1510D is that it's hard to get something comparable with good graphics. Hopefully with NVIDIA's help it'd be possible soon.

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