You might think netbooks are dead now when more and better tablets enter the market every week. But that’s not necessarily true, these mini laptops still have their edges over tablets and they will continue to be better cheap productivity tools, at least for the time being.
It is true however that attention is shifting away from 10 inch netbooks and among the many factors that cause this change, there is one above all: in a world dominated by Intel Atom platforms, netbooks offer overall sluggish performances, both during everyday use and when dealing with multimedia content. AMD introduced their Fusion line and APUs like the e-350 and the c-50 quickly gained fans, but for netbooks, the C-50 only brought Full HD playing abilities and not a snappier overall experience, as CPU wise, AMD’s processor for netbooks is slower than Intel’s dual-cores.
You probably know that we’re going to see some changes on the front this Fall. First, AMD recently announced faster Fusion processor for mini laptops, the C-60 (meant for 10 inchers) and the E-450 (meant for nettops rather than mini laptops, although there will be exceptions).
The C-60 is a dual-core 1.33 GHz processor with Radeon 6200 graphics, clocked at 400 MHZ. Thus, we get a 33% and 50% improvement on clock speed for the CPU and GPU over the C-50.
On the other hand, Intel are working on their new Cedar Trail ATom platform. They announced some new processors that should be part of netbooks this Fall, with the Atom N2800 being the fastest of them. This one is a 1.86 GHz dual-core CPU with 1 MB of Cache, HT and improved graphics, now DirectX 10.1 capable and offering HD decoding (MPEG2, VC1, AVC, and H.264) with support for Blu-Ray 2.0, HDMI 1.3a and two different displays.
However, the CedarTrail platform ain’t that much different from the current PineTrail we got on CPUs like the Atom N570. And you can see this from the very few benchmarks available right now, from the guys at Blogeee.net , comparing the Atom N2800, N570 and the E-450 APU from AMD. Of course, there’s no terms of comparison between the two and the later AMD Fusion processor, it would have been nice to have them compared with the AMD C-60. Since we don’t have benchmark results for that one though, we’ll add some comparisons to the C-50 we tested on the Asus EEE PC 1015B.
PCMark 05 analyses the platform as a whole and you can see the following results:
- Atom N2800 – 2250 points
- Atom N570 – 2020 points
- AMD C-50 – N/A
- AMD E-450 – 3310 points
Unfortunately I haven’t run PCMark 05 on the 1015B and I’ve failed to find any results online for the C-50 (maybe because it’s only a 1.0 GHz processor?). Still, you should expect probably around 15 to 20 lower score for the AMD APU, based on the difference from other CPU benchmarks.
As for graphics, we have sopme results from 3DMark 06, below:
- Atom N2800 – 440 points
- Atom N570 – 144 points
- AMD C-50 – 1790 points
- AMD E-450 – 2876 points
Pretty obvious that the C-50 is a clear winner here. We’ve excluded the E-450 from our judgements, as it plays in another league.
All in all, the Atom N2800 looks a bit faster than the current PineTrail Atoms, with GPU scores 3 times better based on those tests. Still, take them with grain and salt, they were conducted on test platforms and not on final release products. In terms of graphics though, N2800 is definitely not a match for the current AMD C-50 . And with the C-60 just around the corner, it might not be a match in terms of raw CPU power either.
In fact, the only place where the new Cedar Trail Atom wins is TDP: it needs less energy than its AMD counterparts, with a TDP of only 6.5 W (9W for the AMDs). So, the N2800 should run for longer and also cooler, which will make it a processor suited for ultra-thin devices with a fanless design.
As a wrap-up though, based on these early tests, if you’ll be looking for performance inside a 10 incher this Fall, AMD’s C-50/C-60 remain your better options, allowing good overall experience, plus the option to run 1080p content and some games.
The Atom N2800 will offer Full HD playing as well, but only barely and should be found in ultra-sleek and portable devices, decently snappy in everyday tasks. And who knows, maybe it will help melt the differences between netbooks and tablets and we’ll see some affordable gadgets similar to the Samsung Series 7, running Windows&Meego (or maybe even Android) and allowing 10+ hours of life every charge. Those would be cool, ay?
Update: We’ve got some more details on the Intel Atom N2800 in the meantime, as I’ve reviewed the Asus 1025C, 1025CE and 1225C, all mini laptops built around this CPU, with different features and screen sizes. So you’d better click those links for the reviews, if you’re interested on how is the N2800 ATOM performing during daily use.
Also, I’ve got to play with the slightly slower Intel Atom N2600, the new Atom entry-level CPU, still a dual-core with decent graphics, but slower than the N2800. You can read more about its performances in this post that compares the N2600 with the Atom N550 and the AMD C50.
Still, I’m looking forward for the Atom D2700 processor inside a mini laptop, that would be punchier than the N2800, as the benchmarks in this other post prove, while providing overall decent battery life.