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The launch of Intel Atom processors marked the beginning of a new revolution in the PC market. These processors encouraged the arrival of a new class of devices – netbooks and nettops – and quickly became very popular. However, it looks like the compact and low-performance systems market has become quite saturated lately, which inspired Intel to enhance their Atom platform. So, what have we ended up with as a result?

The major innovation introduced in the new Pine Trail platform was the change of its internal structure. Intel no longer uses an individual chip for the North Bridge and has transferred its functionality into the CPU. As a result, systems with new Atom processors are now based on two major chips instead of three: the CPU and the South Bridge. As a result, Pine Trail platform became much more energy-efficient and way “cooler” than its predecessor. Therefore, the new generation of netbooks based on this platform will be able to last longer on battery. Pine Trail based nettops in their turn, will become completely noiseless due to fully passive cooling inside.

In the meanwhile we have to admit that although Intel engineers changed the platform structure and gave up an individual North Bridge chip, they still didn’t pay due attention to increasing the platform performance and extending its functionality. In fact, Pineview processor and Intel NM10 chipset forming this platform consist of almost the same functional units as the previous platform built around Diamondville processor and Intel 945GC chipset. And it means not only that Pineview performance is not very much different from that of Diamondville, but also that GMA3150 graphics core has very low 3D speed and doesn’t support fully-fledged HD video decoding. The minor cosmetic improvements that deal with slight increase of the clock frequency and introduction of DDR2-800 SDRAM support (in single-channel mode) can only boost the performance by about 15% in real applications compared with the previous platform.

And although systems built around Pine Trail platform do work decently in Windows 7, allow comfortable web-surfing and cope with basic office tasks, many typical home applications, such as high-definition video playback can become a stumbling stone for them. As a result, it means only one single thing: the new Atom processors won’t be able to take over any new market niches compared with their predecessors. The computer systems based on Pine Trail platform will still fail to cope with the tasks that used to be out of reach for the older Atom based solutions. But if a system with Intel Atom and 945GC chipset used to be a good choice for you before, then Pine Trail will make you even happier, because this platform is undoubtedly better than the previous one.

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