Last August in our Atom N550 article, we hinted that Intel will release their next generation Atom platform in mid-2011. As we mentioned in that article, the codename for this platform is “Cedar Trail”, and today we have some further details to share. Cedar Trail (and the Cedarview-D processors) won’t quite make it out in mid-2011 as we previously reported; they are now slated for a Q4 2011 release.

The CPU and GPU are a single die based on Intel's 32nm technology. The smaller process allows Intel to boost the clock speeds while keeping TDP the same or even lowering it. Cedar Trail will continue to use the same NM10 chipset as its predecessor, with two models at its introduction. The following table summarizes the current and near-future Intel Atom lineup.

Intel’s Atom Lineup
Model D410 D510 D425 D525 D2500 D2700
Core/Thread Count 1/2 2/4 1/2 2/4 2/2 2/4
Frequency (GHz) 1.66 1.66 1.83 1.83 1.86 2.13
L2 Cache (KB) 512 1024 512 1024 1024 1024
TDP (W) 10 13 10 13 10 10
GPU Type DX9 DX9 DX9 DX9 DX10.1 DX10.1

The core architecture remains unchanged, so CPU performance should be the same as previous Atom processors, only with higher clock speeds. We won’t see a new Atom architecture until mid- to late-2012. Interesting to note is that no single-core Atom CPUs are listed at present, so both Pineview-D processors are dual-core, only the D2500 disables Hyper-Threading support. It should be a decent upgrade from the previous single-core + HTT D425, but overall CPU performance will end up lower than the D525 in situations that can leverage four threads. The D2700 on the other hand is a straight 16% clock speed increase over the D525. We’ll have to see how that translates into real-world application performance when the chips arrive.

The roadmap also indicates the possibility of a marginal update to Intel’s existing Pine Trail lineup in Q3 2011. If that happens, it will likely consist of 2.0GHz single-core and dual-core Atom chips, but without the GPU upgrades will continue to struggle with video content.

The most interesting bit of information is probably the IGP, where we unfortunately have only vague details for now. Cedar Trail will feature full support for DirectX 10.1 and HD decoding (MPEG2, VC1, AVC, and H.264) with Blu-Ray 2.0 support. The display options have also been greatly improved, including HDMI 1.3a, DisplayPort 1.1, eDP (embedded DisplayPort), LVDS, and VGA. The IGP will also be able to drive up to two displays. A block diagram indicates that Intel is adding a “Media” functional unit to the chip, but that’s likely just a part of the IGP.

There is no word about the IGP architecture, clock speeds, or supported resolutions. Presumably it will use a cut down version of Arrandale’s HD Graphics, possibly with a lower EU count (e.g. 6 EUs instead of 12). Regardless, the IGP will be a big step up from GMA 3150 with lots of new features. Most importantly, it finally solves the issue of HD video playback support. Overall performance is still a bit of a mystery, so we cannot give any concrete numbers, but we still have enough to get started.

The big question is going to be how these new Atoms stack up against AMD’s Brazos. The AMD E-350 beat the D510 quite easily, which is the same chip as D525 but with a 166MHz (8%) lower clock speed. Outside of the GPU improvements, the D2700 should only be around 16% faster than D525, which means the E-350 might come in slower in certain CPU tests. However, single-threaded performance is still likely to be faster on E-350—we’d estimate up to a 25% lead in some use cases. Since heavily threaded workloads are not the domain of Atom (or Brazos), it looks as though the E-350 will continue to be very competitive. The E-350 does have a higher 18W TDP, which does work against it somewhat, but it turned out to do much better in our energy efficient tests. Power will be a far bigger concern on laptops and netbooks, however, so we won’t worry much about that aspect for now.

The other point of comparison is in the graphics arena. The E-350’sRadeon HD 6310 IGP is a powerhouse. It’s about as fast as the Intel HD 2000 found in some of the Sandy Bridge CPUs. Unless Cedar Trail’s IGP uses HD 2000 rather than Arrandale’s HD Graphics, it will still be behind AMD’s offerings. As we’ve noted elsewhere, however, gaming on either platform is so heavily CPU-limited that you’ll want to stick with older titles. Since we know very little about the IGP in Cedar Trail, it’s hard to draw any firm conclusions, and driver quality is still a point of contention. At least Atom is finally getting an upgrade from the stone-age GMA 950/3150 era, which will hopefully enable HD streaming video.

Ultimately, Cedar Trail continues from where the Pine Trail left us, meaning that it will be targeted at sub-$300 netbooks, although it is possible that the D2700 could find its way into ~$400 laptops/netbooks as well. Like previous generations, these new Atoms are intended for basic computing tasks, such as web browsing, email, and instant messaging. Intel doesn’t want to take away sales from their more capable platforms, so for example the Celeron B810 should be at least three times faster than D2700 for only about $75 more (including a basic motherboard). Intel also continues to suggest 1GB of RAM for Atom setups, and as long as nettop and netbook vendors adhere to that recommendation Atom will underwhelm.

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  • Kristian Vättö - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    Like I mentioned in the article, these new Atoms will continue to use Intel NM10 chipset which has TDP of 2.1W. AMD Brazos uses Hudson M1 chipset which has TDP of 4W.

    In total, Cedar Trail platform should have TDP of 12.1W while Brazos based system with E-350 should have a total TDP of 22W. That makes Atom 45% more efficient. Of course, these figures only include the CPU/GPU and PCH/FCH combos.
  • sbrown23 - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    22W TDP vs 12.1W TDP does not make Atom 45% more efficient, since those are not real power numbers. We'll have to see what the actual numbers are when tests are performed with CPUs in the lab. Granted, TDP might be all we have on the upcoming Atom for now, but TDP != power use, and the actual difference could be higher or lower.
  • Kristian Vättö - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    Efficient was probably a wrong choice of word but on paper, Atom's TDP looks better. Like I mentioned in the article, E-350 turned out to use less power, even under heavy load where the power consumption should be close to the actual TDP.
  • DanNeely - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    The real world difference appears lower. Anadtech tested an 11.6" E350 laptop a few months ago, it got ~9hours runtime vs ~11 for the best atom based system. That's much closer than the TDP numbers would indicate; probably because the E350 was able to spent more time at idle than the atoms were.
  • Icaros - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    Back when second-generation atom got on-chip memory controllers the gains were quite disappointing since it turned out that it still had to go via. the FSB as far as I remember.

    Will this be solved now with the new chip? - and will the controller be on die as with the GFX? If that is the case won't that lead to some performance gains?
  • duploxxx - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    it is good that Intel is adding all the features for the IGP that will make atom finally able to handle HTPC but it is mutch to late and will be totally raped by the brazos refresh on both cpu and gpu performance which will be positioned at the same timeframe..
  • psychobriggsy - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    So almost a year after AMD released the E-350, Intel finally gets around to releasing a chip that might possibly be competitive - although likely not in graphics, and with the Intel graphics driver quality issue still outstanding.

    In addition the platform is going to be crippled by a low quantity of RAM, etc, just to try and keep the prices low. RAM is cheap, and the E-350 systems come with copious amounts.

    Later this year AMD will be releasing a few more Brazos chips with turbo functionality, and probably in Q1 next year (only a quarter behind Intel) they'll probably have their 28nm variants, including a quad-core as well as dual-cores, and enhanced Bobcat cores too.
  • Testers - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    AMD still sux and ever will. Period! E-350 systems sux at battery life
  • silverblue - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    No they don't, and no they don't.
  • Beaver M. - Saturday, April 30, 2011 - link

    I dont care for battery life as much as I care for compatibility and reliability. AMD was always bad at those.
    So I just hope that AMD will start getting close to Intel in at least some aspects so that Intel finally lets Nvidia do their graphics stuff again.

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