As you might know, I’ve got an Asus EEE PC X101CH for tests these days. This is going to be Asus’s mainstream 10 inch netbook in the first part of 2012, and brings the new Intel Atom Cedar Trail platform, with an Intel Atom N2600 processor.
I’m pretty sure this is the first time a netbook with this new platform has been released into the wild, so below you’re going to find a couple of benchmarks and impressions after playing with it, with more to come in the Review I’m going to post for the Asus X101CH in the next days.
Of course, the main question is how will this new platform perform when compared to current PineTrail Atom and AMD’s Fusion for 10 inchers. I’m going to offer some comparisons that should help you get the differences below in the post as well.
Intel Atom N2600 CPU – the specs sheet
First though, let’s have a quick look at this new processor. The N2600 is part of Intel’s new line of low-power CPUs, named Cedar Trail, and is built on 32 nm lithography. The official specs for the CPU are not yet available, but we do know that we have a dual-core CPU, with HT, clocked at 1.6 GHz. It includes Intel HD 3600 Integrated graphics running at 400 MHz, Direct X10.1 compatible (based on specs) and it should support only up to 2 GB of DDR3 RAM. As James noted in one of his comments here, it does not offer Flash hardware acceleration support, but it should be able to handle up to 1080P self-stored videos (plus, the little laptop offer an HDMI port, which supports this assumption).
Now, I can’t say anything on TDP for now and I can’t say for sure whether the memory is soldered on the motherboard for our config or not, but will get back . Still, that’s not important, as I’m sure producers will be able to opt for soldered/unsoldered memory on their lines.
We also know that this is a fanless architecture, so there’s little noise involved. Intel is also going to offer a faster Atom N2800, running at 1.83 GHz and with even better graphics, also designed for 10 inchers, which makes me think the N2600 is going to be the mainstream offer in this size range and should offer decent energy consumption levels and a proper price.
The prints from CPU-Z and GPU-Z should answer more questions (although you can notice there’s little info on the GPU, as this chip is so new), and if there’s anything else you want me to try, please leave a comment.
The benchmarks on the Intel Atom N2600 platform
Below you’ll find some of the synthetic tests I’ve ran on the X101CH.
As always, take them with a grain of salt, the platform is still new and drivers are fresh, thus performances could improve by the time final CedarTrail Atom equipped laptops will hit the stores.
I couldn’t run 3D Mark Vantage on this machine, as I get an error claiming the system does not support DirectX 10.1 (which is weird, as early details on the Intel 3600 graphics stated it is DirectX 10.1 compatible). Also, the Open GL test in Cinebench 11.5 resulted in multiple errors, so i couldn’t get a final result despite trying for like 5 times.
Real life use impressions, plus temperatures and noise
Synthetic benchmarks can be misleading sometimes. In daily use, the X101CH feels snappy for a cheap 10 incher. Of course, it won’t handle proper multitasking, but the overall experience while using Chrome with a couple of tabs, Yahoo Messenger opened in the back and Microsoft Word for putting together this article was fairly good. Having a dual-core processor definitely makes the X101CH a lot faster than the X101H was.
Dealing with video, Flash 720p content on Youtube is playable. Haven’t tried Hulu or Netflix (as they don’t work over here), but I’ll see what I can do for the final review. 1080p content on Youtube was choppy though on IE, and that’s mainly Adobe’s fault (or Intel’s?), as the 3600 Graphics chip still does not offer hardware Flash decoding, thus all the burden falls on the CPU. Still, it does seem to works almost perfectly smooth in Chrome, with only minor hiccups.
The N2600 can actually handle 1080P self stored content quite well. I’ve tried .movs, .mp4s and some .mkvs 1080p files and even Blu-Ray rips. Most of them worked fine in MPC-HC, except for some of the .mkvs where DXVA decoding was not working (DXVA is an older issue on Intel’s graphic chips, there are numerous solutions that should help you enable it, but they are not going to work all of the time; the same happened here: some .mkvs played fine, with DXVA working, while some were choppy, when the CPU had to carry the entire burden).
As for noise and temperatures, this platform is fanless, so there’s little to no noise involved. In fact, you’re only going to hear the HDD gnashing during everyday use, in a quiet room. Without the fan, you’d expect this one to get hot, but it doesn’t. Of course, the bottom can get warm, even a bit hot when pushing it hard, but during everyday use, you’ll be able to bare with those temperatures no problem. For instance, there’s a picture below showing you CPU load and temperatures when playing a 1080p Blu-Ray rip with DXVA working, and those numbers are actually quite good.
Speaking about battery life, I haven’t been able to test it properly yet. From what I did test, running a 1080p FULL HD clip in MPC-HC, on High Performance, with screen at 100%, with sound at max and wireless OFF will get you about 2 hours and 10 minutes of life out of the 3 Cell 23Wh 2200 mAh battery inside. However, you’ll hardly push it that far, thus average life span is going towards 4 hours for the X101CH, which can actually get better for low-CPU tasks, like writing stuff and light-browsing.
Battery Eater 05 shows about 1 hour an 55 minutes for the Classic test and 4 hours and 40 minutes for the Readers benchmark.
Will get back with more battery testing results once I have the review done, so stay tuned.
PS: If any of you guys can tell me how can I actually see the Wh output based on given activities, I’d appreciate any advices and help here.
Update: Oke, I got Battery Bar Free installed (not Pro) and I get an idle discharge of 6.7-7.2 mW, sometimes it drops to, with Power Saver mode on, Wi-Fi OFF and screen at 50%. Gets to 6-6.3 mW with screen at 0%.
Wi-Fi ON, screen at 60%, still on Power Saver and Chrome opened with 3-4 tabs (blogs like this one, engadget, etc), gets to about 9 mW.
The same as above, but while watching 720p youtube clip gets to 10 mW.
High performance, watching 1080p clip on Youtube with Screen at 100% averages about 10.5 -10.8 mW.
1080p .mov video using MPC-HC on High Performance and Screen at 100% – 11.5 to 12 Wh
Don’t have any game installed so I don’t know if it will get higher than that.
Compared to the Intel Atom N570 and the AMD C-50 chips
I’m going to compare the Atom N2600 platform with a PineTrail Atom N570 (tested on the Asus 1015PX) and an AMD C-50 (tested on the Asus 1015B and the Toshiba NB550D). The N570 is the fastest Atom for 10 inchers right now, while the AMD chip has a more powerful sibling, the C-60, but I haven’t got to test it myself (you can find details online, so you can compare things yourself).
Below you can find a couple of comparisons based on the results scored on a couple of those synthetic tests above.
When compared to the N570, looks like the current N2600 is a bit slower in terms of raw CPU tests, but way faster in terms of graphic abilities. Compared to the C-50, you get mixed results in CPU tests (poorer score in PCMark Vantage, better in Cinebench 11.5 CPU test and Crystalmark ), and definitely a lot under in terms of graphics (however, both can actually play 1080p content, as our tests showed; so the only difference is in games or maybe some encoding software. But hey, you’re not going to play games on a 10 incher anyway, or process HD video, right? ).
However, CedarTrail should win when it comes to efficiency. It’s fanless, so there’s no noise, plus it does seem to offer longer battery life based on my initial tests.
And of course, the N2600 is not going to be the fastest of the Cedar Trail Atoms, thus if you’ll be needing some extra muscles, you should go for that N2800 Atom at 1.83 GHz, with better graphics as well.
If you’re interested in more benchmarks, you should also check the slightly faster Atom N2800 I’ve tested on the Asus 1025CE and the bigger Asus 1225C, in this comparison with the Atom N570 and the AMD C50.
Also, here’s another interesting post comparing the scores I’ve got for the Intel Atom D2700 with what you should expect from AMD’s E350/E450 APUs and the older PineTrail Atom D525, as I also played with the faster D2700 on the Lamborghini VX6S 12 inch mini laptop.
Intel planned to offer a better overall balanced platform for ultra-portables with their CedarTrail Atom line. The new architecture is by no means revolutionary, it’s similar to their previous PineTrail in many ways, that’s why there are not noticeable improvements in terms of performances. However, better graphics have been added to the mix, and the overall bundle is quieter and will run for longer.
The end result: mini laptops like the Asus EEE PC X101CH will get affordable price tags, are light, powerful enough for basic everyday tasks and some multimedia, and provide decent battery life (maybe not for this EEE PC that offers a 3 Cell battery, but with a 6 Cell you’ll be able to get 6-8 hours of life during everyday use from a single charge, which ain’t bad at all).
Of course, the real game changer will come with Intel’s Silvermont architecture, in 2013; that’s going to be a a completely redesigned platform and should bring a lot more improvements than CedarTrail does. Don’t expect massive raw power though, Intel targets power efficiency with their Atom line, and better integrations with various types of electronics products, thus future Intel CPUs will be SOCs and will be part of more than just netbooks, unlike today.