Why Do We Need Yet Another Intel Atom Platform?

Let me start with a Pet Peeve of mine: Fashion. I hate Fashion. And when I say “hate” I don’t mean “dislike” like how I dislike how, no matter where I park at the airport, the bus always seems to get to my car last (it’s like they know man, they KNOW!). Nope, I mean hate as in LOATH. Why? Because, from my view, the whole industry is a supreme waste of time, money, and human intellect. If we spent the resources that get spent (read: WASTED) on fashion on other activities like science or engineering, it would do so much more to further the human condition. We may or may not have been able to cure cancer by now, but at the very least we would have been able to make a toupée for Donald Trump that looks real. If I were king for a day, all clothes except jeans and t-shirts would be banned (sweat shirts would be allowed for colder climates). In my perfect world, t-shirts would be like bottles of wine – you’d take pride in wearing 1 with a great “vintage” – Ah, an “sudo Make Me A Sandwich” t-shirt! Good Year! Life would be so much simpler that way & we’d be able to move on to things that matter…

So, what’s the point of my opening diatribe? Because, quite frankly, I’m a Geek (some might even say an ÜberGeek). I know this. I admit this. Ney! I *embrace* this. But, I also know that most of the people of the world aren’t geeks. Therefore, I know that, just like I roll my eyes every time I catch a glimpse of a “high-fashion catwalk” where super-skinny girls are walking around in a dresses made of shards of glass, I’m sure there are non-geek folks that role their eyes every time they hear Intel has announce (from their point of view) “yet-another processor” (of any brand). The problem is, they don’t understand the truly magical nature of our product releases. The semiconductor industry is basically the only industry that actually has a super-power – which we call “Moore’s Law.” If fashion had a “Whitney’s Law” (named after Eli Whitney, inventor of the Cotton Gin), such that, every 2 years, the thread count of clothes would double, so that, by now, I could wear a thin-turtle neck that would keep me warm as hiked across Antarctica in the July (remember, it’s in the southern hemisphere), then I’d see the point of getting excited about fashion. Or, to say it another way, if the same weight of t-shirt now cost half as much today as it did 2 years ago, then there would be something to pay attention to. Unfortunately, the miracle that is Moore’s law just doesn’t exist in any other industry, so it is hard for folks that don’t have a super-power in their industries to really appreciate how exciting a new product launch is for us!

Specifically, in this case, I’m excited about the new “Cedarview” processor (formal name: The Intel® Atom™ processor N2000 and D2000 series – I know, it just rolls off your tongue!). IMHO, it is when you compare it to the previous generation (code named “Pineview”) that you can really get a feeling for why this is big news. But 1st, some high-level bullets because Geeks Love Stats:

  • All SKUs are dual-core processors on 32nm process
  • Speeds range from 1.6 GHz (@ 3.5W) to 2.13 GHz (@ 10W)
  • 1MB L2 Cache (512 kB per Core) & Hyper-Threading on every SKU
  • DDR3 Memory from 800 MHz (N2600) to 1066 MHz (D2700/N2800)
  • Integrated Graphics running from 400 MHz (N2600) to 640 MHz (D2700/N2800)
  • 22mm x 22mm package with a 0.7mm ball pitch
  • See the press kit for all the details you could want!

But, like I said, while all the above “feels” good, it’s not until you compare it to the previous generation that you really get a feeling for why this is such a boost. I’ve taken 2 “key” SKUs from the previous generation (the N450 & D525) and lined them up to give you a better notion for the changes involved:

Since the chipset (NM10) hasn’t changed, the system interface hasn’t changed. And, they all support Intel® 64, SEE2/SSE3/SSSE3 and Embedded Options – but outside of that, there have been lots of improvements.

For example, if we take the more battery optimize version (SKUs starting with “N” for Netbook) you can see that from the N450to the N2600, not only did we double (from 1 to 2) the number of cores, but, while keeping the frequency roughly the same (within 4%), we were able to decrease the TDP by over 1/3 (36% to be exact). I don’t care what magic show you’re watching – that’s an impressive rabbit to pull out of any top-hat!

On the “D” side of the house (which stands for Desktop as in things intending to be (mostly) plugged in) – we bumped the frequency up by >300 MHz (>18%) while decreasing the TDP by almost 25%! In fact, the D2700 is the first Intel® Atom™ processor to even break the 2GHz barrier! All this adds up to what you get from Moore’s law => a choice of decreasing your power at roughly the same performance or increasing your performance at the same power or some (less extreme) combination of the two.

But, exactly how power efficient have we become? Let me give you a comparison – you know those Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) everyone loves for their power efficiency? Well, if you wanted to replace a conventional 100 Watt bulb with a CFL, you’d use one that consumes about 23 Watts. That is more than 4 TIMES more power than an N2600 and NM10 (1.5W) running at full, theoretical, power consumption! Plus – a light pretty much consumes a steady amount of power (as long as it is on), but your systems are designed to “down-shift” their power consumption whenever possible, so even though the N2600 is *rated* at 3.5 Watts (for thermo/mechanical design reasons) – in actual practice, it consumes (with NM10) more like 1.9W in terms of “Average Power” (see our Press deck, slide 15 for full details). So that means, in actual practice – you could put 10 pairs of our Intel® Atom™ Processor N2600 and Intel® NM10 Express Chipset running together and, on average, they consume less power than a single CFL bulb. That’s pretty amazing to me!

So, with that, the real question is, what kind of brilliance could you bring to a previously mundane object with that kind of efficiency? Could you build a Better Mouse Trap? Could you make a litter tray that cleans itself when it needs to while making compost for your garden? Could you make a smarter front door that allows you to interact with the UPS driver while you’re in your cube at work? What could you build with a little more “Wow” per Watt? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

Or, hit me on Twitter if you’d rather leave an idea there: @Geek8ive

Eric Mantion

About Eric Mantion

Eric is the Nerd Herder for Intel's Software & Services Group responsible for the Intel RealSense Community You can find him online at: - www.Twitter.com/CaptGeek - www.Linkedin.com/in/ericmantion | Eric graduated from the US Naval Academy, with a bachelor of science in Physics. He has served on Nuclear Powered Submarines and was attached to SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team ONE. He has worked in the Semiconductor Industry for over 10 years and has held positions as a Product Marketing Engineer, a Senior Industry Analyst, a Competitive Intelligence Analyst, and a Technology Evangelist. In whatever spare time he has, Eric loves spending working out (especially Beach Volleyball), tinkering with computers, dabbling with Linux, exploring Android, and playing video games (especially StarCraft II & DOTA 2)

45 Responses to Why Do We Need Yet Another Intel Atom Platform?

  1. @Intel_Jim says:

    I LOVE the new metric of “WOW per Watt”!!! While benchmarks and various performance metrics are nice it’s always the implemented “so what?” that gets users/consumers attention. Oh, and I can always use a little extra WOW! in my life!

    • Eric Mantion says:

      Thanks Jim – I can’t take credit for that, “WOW per Watt” cam from the launch team, but I really liked it ;-)

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  3. Rebecca says:

    As always, very insightful. I think your hatred for fashion should be tempered though. Fashion and technology are very interconnected – otherwise, why would Intel sponsor a show like “Project Runway” and invite its winner, Anya, to its spotlight stage? She used an Ultrabook to create her award winning designs; and people’s love of fashion fuels an insatiable hunger for content and shopping that makes people want to use technology to get faster/better access to it. Fashion has been the impetus to advance online shopping, mobile shopping and technologies like tap-to-checkout which PSO showcased in his keynote. With all these advancements, that must-have item off the runway can be in your closet within hours thanks to mobile apps from sites like Gilt and others. And with an Intel phone out there now, we will soon be able to shop for the shoes we love on-the-go from a device with an Intel processor and powered by a smart pipe (with IA) and an Intel powered cloud.

    • Eric Mantion says:

      I will modify your assement slightly: “All things (regardless of if they are a wast of time or not) can be made better by better use of technoloy. I would also agree that designing anything (be it dresses, bridges, or dresses for bridges) can be made better and more accurate through the use of technology. And, obviously we’ve seen over that last several months, all kinds of ways that technology makes shopping an easier, more enjoyable experince. But, as to the question of why did we (Intel), sponsor the show Project Runway <<< There are some mysteries, like Stonehenge, which are better left unsolved ;-)

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