Pine Trail arrives ahead of schedule

The Intel Pine Trail platform is the latest upgrade to the Atom line of processors for netbook and nettop computers. This is a major architectural shift from a technical perspective as the CPU now integrates the memory controller and graphics core on the CPU die directly.
Today Intel officially unveils the newly updated Atom architecture previously known as Pine Trail.  The platform upgrade is really rather minor in terms of performance and features but does improve the cost and power consumption situations nicely across the board.

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The new architecture moves from a three chip to a two chip design by integrating the memory controller and graphics core directly onto the Atom CPU die – the first for a modern processor.  The rest of the functionality including storage and I/O is left to the new Intel NM10 Express chipset.

There are only trio of new processor being announced today, the first of which is targeted at the netbook market:

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The new N450 runs at the same sluggish 1.66 GHz and consists of a single HyperThreaded processing core.  The integrated memory controller is capable of a DDR2-667 speeds and it all runs at a measly 5.5 watts under a full load.

For nettops there are two different options available:

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The D410 is basically identical to the N450 listed above but it enables DDR2 memory speeds up to 800 MHz and uses a bit more power – part of an intelligent binning process by Intel no doubt.  The D510 run as the same speeds but doubles the core count.

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A single Atom “Pineview” core

The new integrated graphics is being called the Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 3150 and is DX9 capable, though I wouldn’t plan on doing any gaming on it.  It can do some modest HD video playback though Intel is saying that for full HD playback support the need for a third-party chip like Broadcom’s BCM70015 decoder is required. 

The big change with this new platform is obviously a consolidation in space and design as well as lowering of power consumption across the board. 

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Compared to the previous generation of Atom platforms, the new Pine Trail offerings will bring significant reductions in heat and power.  That should, in theory, mean longer battery life on your next netbook as well. 

There are some drawbacks to the new Atom processors though.  They don’t offer any HD video decode acceleration with the integrated graphics and also don’t do any sort of Adobe Flash acceleration – both of which could be accomplished by the NVIDIA ION chipset.  However, the current generation of ION will not function with the new Atom design because the CPU uses the DMI bus to connect to the chipset – and we all know that NVIDIA does not have the license to create chipsets around the DMI bus.  (Otherwise, we would have likely seen an NVIDIA chipset for the Lynnfield CPU.)  The oft-discussed ION 2 will be a discrete graphics solution only for exactly this reason – it can use the PCI Express lanes of the Intel NM10 chipset to interface with the platform. 

Overall, Pine Trail is much less about performance and features than we had originally hoped.  From a purely technical perspective, moving the memory controller and GPU on-board such a low cost and small processor makes for interesting discussions, but probably won’t change much in the world of computing for consumers or business.  But, if Intel’s partners can translate the new platform into longer battery life and at the same (or lower) prices, then we are all for it.  Reviews of Pine Trail systems pending!


We did find some reviews available today including this look at the D510 desktop part at Anandtech and the ASUS 1005PE using the N450.