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In a bid to further diversify its product offerings, at Computex Taipei 2008 Intel Corp. unveiled its first ever microprocessors designed for ultra low-cost personal computers (ULCPCs) from the ground up. The new Intel Atom chips will power netbooks and nettops, an emerging category of personal computers with somewhat trimmed functionality and performance.

Intel Atom N270 single-core microprocessor designed for so-called netbooks, or mobile ULCPCs, operates at 1.60GHz, contains 512KB or level-two cache and utilizes 533MHz processor system bus (PSB). Like the rest of Atom-family processors, the model N270 supports multi-threading technology and can execute two threads of code simultaneously. The chip has thermal design power (TDP) of just 2.5W and consumes just 0.5W while idle. The chip developer recommends to use Intel 945GSE core-logic with Atom N270.

Intel’s first processor for nettops – desktop ULCPCs – is Intel Atom 230, which has one processing core with multi-threading technology, works at 1.60GHz, sports 512KB of L2 cache and uses 533MHz PSB. The chip has 4W TDP and is compatible with Intel 945GC core-logic with built-in DirectX 9-class graphics core.

According to Intel, there is significant interest from system vendors in netbooks and nettops and the company expects about 10 designs to be launching from Acer, Asustek computer, Elitegroup Computer Systems, Gigabyte, Malata, Medion, MicroStar Internationa, Quanta, Shuttle and other companies. Besides, they will be available throughout 2008 from Sylvania, Toshiba and others.

The category of low-cost desktop or mobile computers is hardly completely new: Via Technologies and Silicon Integrated Systems Corp. have been developing chipset and processor solutions to enable truly affordable personal computers for years. However, the idea of ULCPC was reborn with the emergence of Asus Eee PC, which was initially positioned for education markets in the developing world, but quickly became a mobile companion for a smartphones in well-developed countries. According to some observers, Internet-oriented desktops and notebooks will continue gain popularity across the world thanks to availability of content and services that entertain or allow to perform the number of tasks sufficient for an average user.

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