Articles: CPU

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Besides the undoubtedly successful Core microarchitecture which has recently been updated as Ivy Bridge, Intel has got other processor technologies. One of them is the Bonnell microarchitecture for Atom series CPUs which are targeted at slim and mobile computers. Instead of performance, this microarchitecture is focused on low power consumption and heat dissipation. It doesn’t support out-of-order execution and can only process two instructions per clock, but allows developing inexpensive x86-compatible CPUs with a TDP of just a few watts. The Bonnell has been developing independently of the Core and deserves a dedicated review now.

Although it’s the smartphone-oriented Medfield platform that attracts the most attention in the Atom world right now, we are going to take up another subject today. Getting ready for its invasion into tablet PCs and smartphones, Intel has simultaneously updated its netbook and nettop -oriented solutions by releasing the Cedar Trail platform and related CPUs known under the codename of Cedarview. We’ve been closely following the evolution of tiny computer systems and can’t pass by such a portentous event: the Atom series has got a more advanced graphics core, higher clock rates, lower heat dissipation and power consumption, and 32nm manufacturing technology.

Indeed, the previous-generation Atom series (codenamed Pineview) really called for an update. Designed for compact desktop and mobile computers, these CPUs have been losing their ground throughout the last year and a half. On one hand, there has been a global shift in user interests towards ultrabooks and tablet PCs while, on the other hand, new and ambitious players, particularly AMD, have come to the market niche formed by Intel. As a result, the demand for Atom CPUs has been declining and switching to either CPUs with the ARM architecture or to the AMD Brazos platform which is not only head above the last-generation Atom in every parameter but is perhaps the best product AMD has offered recently. Therefore, the new Atoms of the Cedarview generation have been eagerly awaited. They have a chance of restoring Intel as the leading maker of CPUs for compact and economical desktop and mobile computers.

It is no blitzkrieg, though. The announcement of the Cedar Trail platform and Cedarview CPUs was postponed a few times and only occurred at the end of the last year in a very clumsy way. The actual hardware didn’t make it to shops right away due to significant driver flaws. So, even though the new Atom series formally exists, users interested in compact low-power computers often find themselves choosing between the Intel Pine Trail and AMD Brazos platforms even now.

Well, it looks like the Cedarview’s fortune has begun to change for the better. At least, we’ve received two mini-ITX mainboards from Intel that implement the Cedar Trail platform in hardware: D2500HN and DN2800MT. We’ve examined their capabilities and benchmarked their performance to prepare this review for you.

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