Asus Eee 1000H ReviewZertz - October 13, 2008
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The Intel Atom processor is based on the Core microarchitecture, itself based on the Dothan core, also more commonly known as Pentium-M. It has been reworked with power consumption in mind, leading to reduced cache, no more 64-bit instructions and less processing power. The differential between idle and load power usage had to be as low as possible and it had to have, at peak load, no more than a 2W thermal design power
(TDP). Thus, Atom was born. A single core, in-order, processor, equipped with HyperThreading, which was first introduced back in 2002 with the Netburst microarchitecture. That translates to 47 millions transistors built on a 45 nanometer process making a tiny 26 square millimeters die. In comparison, the latest dual core Wolfdale processors need over 400 million transistors to perform like they do. Atom features a mere 32KB of level 1 cache while level 2 gets a whopping 512KB. Again, not much compared to desktop processors, but enough for what it's meant for.
All those small numbers, everything is relative of course, end up consuming less than a single Watt under idle conditions and 2.5W under full load. To put things into perspective, the most frugal ultra low voltage (ULV) Core 2 Solo processor has a TDP of 5.5W and costs about four times as much as the Atom. So how come that little processor so cheap? One of the reasons is that Intel manages to extract about 2500 Atoms from a single 300 mm wafer. Of course, those tiny chips are nowhere near as powerful as Core 2s, but the question is – do you really need all that processing power from a portable computer?
While the Atom's power consumption is nothing short of impressive, the same cannot be said about the chipset it is paired with. The aging 945GSE northbridge, which includes a memory controller and an integrated graphic processor, gets the job done, although now without a sweat and at the cost of relatively high power consumption, standing at 6W. The southbridge is the ICH7M, which, in this case, mainly takes care of the storage devices and then passes the information to the northbridge. The whole platform has a TDP of 11.8W, so that's just under 12W for a processor, a northbridge and a southbridge. With a platform refresh coming before the end of this year, the chipset's power consumption will drop dramatically.
Don't forget that this is a first generation platform, so everything isn't perfect and Intel is most likely aware of those issues. With dual core boards (actually a pair of Atoms on a single chip) making their way to retail outlets as we speak and the new chipset nearly ready for mass production, it's safe to expect lower overall power consumption, especially from the northbridge. The integrated graphic processing unit should also receive a decent performance bump.
Now that we know a bit more about the hardware, let's move on to today's main point of interest: the Asus Eee 1000H.