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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  • pelov - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    so intel is finally making a netbook/HTPC chip that can play back HD video and bitstream? You'd think they'd have focused on that stuff before trying to enter that market.

    When factoring in GPU performance as well it's still hard to justify going the atom route. Battery life i'm sure will be fantastic with the new cedar trail chips, but it's still too much for phones and tablets. On the other side, we've clearly seen the CPU bottlenecking the e-350 and we won't see smaller nm chips for a bit. Green or blue? who knows.

    It's just hard to read the mobile market right now. Part of me feels x86 is too big and the other part feels ARM stuff doesn't have enough horsepower. It's just too confusing and fast-moving to try to speculate.
  • Andrew Rockefeller - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    Agreed. If you factor in the push toward touch interfaces, the GPU becomes even more important. Fast smooth screen behaviors which follow your fingers far outweighs the need for these devices to encode an MP3s at high speeds.

    It's all about user experience in the low end.
  • StormyParis - Saturday, April 30, 2011 - link

    There's a push towards touch interfaces ? in the x86 segment ?
    Apart from the extremely rare x86 tablet (and nobody wants those) and the even rarer touch all-in-one (who wants to smudge their screen when they have a keyboard+mouse), I don't see what you're talking about. Kiosks ?
  • coolio68 - Saturday, April 30, 2011 - link

    Regarding the GPU Kristian, you may want to
    consider the Power VR SGX 545:
    Intel were lead partner.
  • 789427 - Saturday, April 30, 2011 - link

    I think AMD hit on something with their multi-task review highlighting the E-350.
    It showed complex excel calculations with video playing and other stuff cycling.
    Honestly, a low power user doesn't really care how fast the netbook encodes video - he cares about having his work open, watching a video without stutter when an email comes through and the ability to switch rapidly between the two.
    Real-world tests aren't super-pi calculations, rapid archive extraction etc.
    Benchmarks need to evolve for desktops too. tried encoding video and working at the same time?

    I urge Anand to make a push for a "Stuff that matters that we can test" benchmark such as heavy load switching, combined load experiences.

    e.g. my Phenom II 965 handles mass effect 2 but battles to switch to browser in-game to look up a game FAQ. giving it a 5/10 experience for this while the atlhon X2 performs a measly 2/10
  • maroon1 - Saturday, April 30, 2011 - link

    Arrandale GPU doesn't support DX10.1, it is DX10 GPU. So, in other words we can certainly say that Cedar Trail GPU won't use Arrandale GPU

    However, it possible that it will be based on Sandy bridge GPU which supports DX10.1
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