Intel Announces Atom Family of Small Computer CPUs

Intel on Sunday announced that its Silverthorne and Diamondville microprocessors will be branded as the Intel Atom product family when they ship to PC and hardware makers in the second quarter of 2008. The chips target tiny, low-cost wireless devices and mini subnotebook computers, respectively.

"This is our smallest processor built with the world's smallest transistors," says Intel executive vice president Sean Maloney. "This small wonder is a fundamental new shift in design, small yet powerful enough to enable a big Internet experience on these new devices. We believe it will unleash new innovation across the industry."

Intel sees the Atom processors and supporting chipsets powering a new generation of portable, Internet-accessible computing devices as well as a new range of tiny subnotebook computers it calls Netbooks. Notebooks available in this class today, like the Asus EeePC and various Ultra-Mobile PCs (UMPCs), use low-voltage versions of Intel's current-generation mobile processors.

Atom represents Intel's biggest push ever into miniaturization. While the chipmaker has historically used technological advances to fit more circuitry onto similarly-sized die packages, this time, Intel is significantly shrinking the size of the microprocessor and supporting chipset dramatically. Atom is so small that eleven of the CPUs would fit on the surface of a US penny. They're also thrifty from energy standpoint, as you might imagine: While PC-based Intel Core 2 Duo processors have a thermal design power (TDP) specification in the 35 watt range, Atom processors have a TDP of just 0.6 to 2.5 watts.

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