Intel and VIA have been duking it out in the netbook processor space for over a year now. Some of the first consumer oriented netbooks had Intel Celeron or VIA C7-M chips. And while VIA has a new Nano CPU line to offer netbook and laptop makers, Intel’s Atom processor is king… for now. The Atom chip is used in dozens of netbooks from most major computer companies including Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, MSI, Samsung, and Toshiba.
Now, VIA claims the Nano offers better performance than the Atom chip. But one of the first Nano systems out the door (the Samsung NC20 12 inch notebook) doesn’t seem to offer any noticable performance boost over the average Atom powered netbook.
But what about AMD? The company has pretty much avoided the netbook market altogether. But recently AMD launched a new platform that the company says will help fill the gap between netbooks and more powerful computers. The AMD Neo chip, we were told, would outperform the Atom and would be able to provide better graphics performance on light weight, relatively low cost ultraportable computers like the HP Pavilion dv2 which is selling for about $750.
But it turns out that the AMD Neo isn’t really all that impressive either, at least not according to a handful of tests that the folks at CNet ran. They pitted the Neo, Nano, and Atom chips against one another in a brief battle. In three contests (multitasking, encoding audio in iTunes, and editing images in Jablum), there were three different winners. The Atom was the best at multitasking, while the Nano and Neo were faster in some single application tests. I think the chart on CNet is messed up because it doesn’t seem to reflect the text of the article. But from the way AMD had been talking, I would have expected the Neo to blow away the Atom and Nano processors. And it doesn’t.
Where the Neo platform does shine is in graphics performance. The HP Pavilion dv2 can handle some video games that would make most netbooks balk. And it handles HD video just fine… but that’s because the AMD Neo CPU is meant to be paired with an ATI GPU, not integrated graphics like you find in the low power Intel Atom platform. The Pavilion dv2 battery also drains in about 2.5 hours, which is nowhere near the 5+ hours you can get from many Intel Atom powered netbooks with 6 cell batteries.