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Intel’s Low-Power Atom Processors

By ·Categories: Tech Explained·Published On: March 19th, 2008·3 min read·

Intel recently announced its new line of Atom processors, which are being targeted at the low-power consumption and low-cost PC market. According to Intel’s press release, the processors are “designed specifically for mobile Internet devices (MIDs)” as well as new Intel-based computers that will be more affordable and will be used primarily for less intensive Web-based applications (dubbed “netbooks” and “nettops”). The Atom processors are being introduced amid increasing demand for more mobile, compact, and low-cost computers. Intel believes that this demand “will grow substantially over the next several years,” and that “the Intel Atom Processor is perfectly suited to meet these new market segments.”

With Intel making advances into the embedded market, what should the small form factor arena be expecting? There are already a few sites that are showing Mini-ITX mainboards that will support the Atom processors. On HKEPC, the article discusses (in Google’s choppy English translation) the new “Little Falls” platform, which will be seen in the Mini-ITX form factor. It lists 2 possible SKUs: BOX945GCLF (Little Falls 1) and BOX945GCLF2 (Little Falls 2). Both will be designed around the 945GC northbridge and ICH7 southbridge.

Intel’s Little Valley uATX board has been quite popular with our end-users, but longevity and I/O options have always been a concern with our project customers. I am interested to see what commitment Intel will have to its future “Little Falls” mainboards. MSI is listed, among two other mainboard manufacturers—ASUStek and Gigabyte, as companies that will support the “Little Falls” platform, mostly in the Mini-ITX form factor. MSI guarantees platform longevity for many of its Mini-ITX mainboards.

About the Atom Processor

The Intel Atom processor is based on a new microarchitecture that was created for small, low-powered devices. The processor is miniature—having an area that measures less than 25 mm2. It will be manufactured on Intel’s new 45nm processing technology. The chips, previously codenamed Silverthorne and Diamondville, will come in both single-core and dual-core packages, respectively. The dual-core Atom will be able to “support a core frequency of 1.87GHz and a maximum TDP of 12W.” Intel highlights the chips TDP in a 0.6-2.5W range in comparison to the current Core 2 Duo Mobile processors, which have a TDP of 35W. HKEPC’s Web site shows that the dual-core Atom will be found on the “Little Falls 2” while the single-core will be found on the “Little Falls 1.”

Now, if you are like me, you might find some of these naming schemes confusing. So, to help clarify, here is what I have discovered:

Diamondville – Originally the codename for Intel’s low-cost, low-power laptop chip. Now named “Atom,” the Diamondville-DC will be the dual-core version of the Atom processor.

Silverthorne – This was also one of the original codenames for Intel’s low-cost, low-power Atom chip. Now grouped into the “Atom” family, the Silverthorne-SC will be the single-core version of the Atom processor.

Menlow – Originally the codename for the now Centrino Atom platform (or “processor technology”), it is comprised of the Atom processor family, low-power companion chipset with integrated graphics, and wireless radio.

Little Falls – I don’t quite understand Intel’s inspiration for its “Little xxxx” names, but it certainly resonates nicely. According to the HKEPC Web site, the Little Falls series will be Intel’s Atom-based Mini-ITX mainboards. This was the only site that I saw legitimate information on the Little Falls. It seems that most of this is still in a very nascent stage.

As for Logic Supply, we will carry these new mainboards as they become available. We will keep you posted as we get development updates from our suppliers.

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About the Author: Kristina Bond

Kristina Bond was the Marketing Director for Logic Supply from 2007 to 2012. She graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia with an M.F.A. in photography and a B.F.A in photography and communication from Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, WV. While technology and Logic Supply remain close to her heart, she moved on from the company in June 2012 to do marketing for the restaurant industry. To get in touch with Kristina, please contact kristina@kristinadrobny.com.
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