Intel Atom Cedar Trail benchmarks

Intel’s Atom processors have never been speed demons. They weren’t meant to be. Instead, these are low power chips designed to offer long battery life and modest performance that’s good enough for basic computing tasks. They’re also designed to be cheap, which is why they’ve been the popular choice for PC companies building low-cost netbooks.

But this emphasis on energy consumption rather than performance explains why there’s been so little change in the performance of netbook chips over the last 3 years. The differences in benchmark scores for the Intel Atom N270, N280, N450, and N455 processors are hardly noticeable.

Things started to look a little better last year when Intel started releasing dual-core netbook chips such as the Intel Atom N550 and N570, which tend to perform much better on tasks that can fully take advantage of multi-core processors. But 3D and HD graphics performance has been pretty stagnant… until now.

VR-Zone has published some of the first benchmarks of Intel’s upcoming Cedar Trail platform. The next-generation Intel Atom chips are designed for netbooks, and they score 2-3 times higher on the 3DMark06 benchmark than any Atom processor available today.

That’s really not saying much, since competing chips such as the AMD E-350 score much, much higher. But at least Intel is finally ready to offer an Intel Atom chip that offers noticeable improvements over a previous-generation chip.

The new processors will include the 1.66 GHz Intel Atom N2600 dual core chip and the 1.86 Ghz Intel Atom N2800 dual core processor. While the N2800 looks like it should offer all-around better performance than any other Atom chip, the 1.66 GHz Intel Atom N570 processor actually appears to best the new N2600 in benchmarks that aren’t specifically designed to gauge graphics performance.

All told, it still looks like AMD has the better platform for low power, moderate performance laptops at the moment, offering better graphics and CPU performance while still allowing for reasonably long battery life.

But Intel’s chips still use substantially less power than AMD’s processors, so if every watt counts to you, Intel may still offer some advantages. More importantly, Intel has strong relationships with netbook makers, so we’ll likely continue to see Intel chips dominate the low cost mini-laptop business for the foreseeable future.

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6 replies on “Intel Atom Cedar Trail chips benchmarks show modest improvements”

  1. The CPU performance is only marginally better; the GPU performance has improved but is still not suitable for any modern 3d game.  What the above chart doesn’t tell us is that the N2800 has the same TDP (power used) as the N455–but is marginally faster than the current high-end N570 Atom.  

    As for AMD, they make good chips, but Intel is beating them at the “power per watt” game.  The Z-01 (TDP 5.9w) looks to be a lower-power C-50, which has a slower CPU than the N550 and N570 (albeit a faster GPU).  The N2800 has even more performance at a slightly higher TDP (6.5w).  

    One thing to note is that the Z-01 is available right now; the N2800 won’t come out for a few months.

    The AMD E-350, of course, has both a faster CPU and a GPU than any of the Atoms, but, at a TDP of 18W, Intel’s competition is the i7-2657M, which smokes the E-350 (albeit at a much higher cost).

    1. Generally speaking, even the AMD Zacate E-350 just barely brings the specs up high enough for entry level gaming.  You’d need the highest performing laptops to really handle modern gaming.

      So these low range systems are better suited for multimedia rather than gaming.  It’s just nice to be able to do some basic gaming on them if you so desired.

      Now while Cedar Trail’s new GMA isn’t up to even entry level gaming, the up to around 3x better performance than the previous GMA 3150 does mean games previously unplayable on ATOM netbooks can now be played at lowest settings.

      So, provided there are no further issues with drivers, the new Cedar Trail systems should make it more reasonable to play games like WoW, Portal, L4D2, etc.  Though anything requiring more than those games minimal settings will continue to be unplayable.

      Leaving Intel’s main advantage being as you stated the power efficiency difference, and you’re correct that the Z-01 is basically a lower powered C-50 but optimized for tablets.  Meaning they stripped some features like support for more than one of each port type, number of supported resolutions, and tweaked for better idling power states.  Though they did manage to keep performance in the same range as the C-50, but they are unlikely to use the Z-01 outside of tablets.

      On Intel’s Core series, CPU performance does “smoke” the Zacate but Intel GMA is only starting to get into entry gaming range.  DX11 support for example won’t come till Ivy Bridge comes out.  Meanwhile AMD will be coming out with more powerful offerings than Zacate to better compete with Intel’s more powerful offerings.  Though none should be in the price range of the Zacate line.

  2. Intel really doesn’t need to innovate.

    By starving AMD of revenues by bribing and threatening manufacturers (as well as retailers like MediaMarkt) for exclusivity, Intel has essentially guaranteed that AMD has no money to grow effectively.

    So… Intel’s billion-dollar bribes to Dell, HP and all the other manufacturers is paying off well!

    1. This doesn’t reflect reality, AMD is doing quiet well and soon will start to push their 28nm updates. 

      Regardless, Intel is also going to face growing competition from ARM and the growing demand from the average user for more performance from their products.

      Already many ARM devices are starting to offer full HD, which many netbooks can’t offer yet, and game console level gaming is starting to come out.

      So Intel has no choice but to innovate and improve their offerings. 

      It really doesn’t matter what bribes or threats Intel gives if the people keep on buying the competitions products!

      1. umm, thats the whole point about intel bribing the competition, they make it harder for people to buy the competing product! and remember, geeks will always know which pc to buy, but average joe/jane will just pick one based on price/looks/software etc

        1. Sorry but this goes against the point that consumers are buying the competition’s products.  Trying to make it harder doesn’t change that people will buy what they want to buy and Intel is obviously failing if they’re still trying.  While other companies bottom line is to make profit and that’s best done by giving the people what they want.

          So the point you’re missing is that Intel can’t rely on such tactics anymore.  They have no choice but to actually compete or they will lose out.

          While so called geeks make up a much larger portion of the average consumer base today than they use to.  So don’t underestimate how much pressure is on Intel to really provide the best solutions.

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