Can Intel Cedar Trail Atom processors, along with Google Chromebooks, resurrect the netbook?

Can Intel Cedar Trail Atom processors, along with Google Chromebooks, resurrect the netbook?

Summary: Pity the poor netbook. Once tech's darling, it's been the primary casualty in the industry's tablet PC mania.


Pity the poor netbook. Once tech's darling, it's been the primary casualty in the industry's tablet PC mania. But can Intel's newest Atom CPUs, along with the roll-out of Google Chromebooks, give the category a second wind?

You probably already know about new Chromebooks coming from Acer and Samsung, which will run Google's Chrome OS and be available from $349 or in a new $28-per-month rental pricing scheme. These run using Intel's current dual-core Atom CPUs.

But Intel also has a new Atom platform coming in the fourth quarter, Cedar Trail, that boasts improved specs to meet the challenge of AMD's low-end, low-power Fusion processors. The most notable spec change is that the Cedar Trail Atom N2800 dual-core processor will be able to handle up to 4GB of RAM instead of the 2GB that current Atoms can manage. Both the Atom N2600 and N2800 will include support for Intel's WiDi wireless display tech, which allows streaming from your netbook to a TV without cables. (Unfortunately, resolution of the streamed content maxes out at 600p instead of 1080p HD.)

The chip giant is also moving away from its own integrated graphics for Cedar Trail, apparently choosing to go with PowerVR's SGX545 GPU instead. Intel's previous GMA 500 and GMA 600 were based of the SGX535, but the clock speed of the new graphics chip will be doubled to 400GHz for netbooks (600GHz for Atom-based desktops) and support DirectX 10.1. That should help to address one netbook weakness: lackluster (at best) graphics performance.

Will a better-performing netbook at the same sub-$400 price point entice you to buy one? Can netbooks do anything else to compete in the new tablet PC world? Let us know in the Comments section.

[Image: VR-Zone]

Topics: Hardware, Google, Intel, Mobility, Processors

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  • I think the category will change to minimum 11.6 inch screens, or notebook

    instead of netbook. 10 inches is just too small.
  • Our managers

    *LOVE* their netbooks with cell-modems. :)

    The form factor is almost perfect, the use of the cell phone network for data coupled with a real keyboard, a real Windows OS (and full terminal server access) in a secure package? More please!

    Sure, 11.6" (1024x768) beats 10" (1024x600) but I'm not sure 11.6" isn't a netbook too. If the screen size is the only difference then calling something a netbook instead of a notebook is just a stupid branding exercise, not an actual distinction.

    But given the remote places out in the field where our managers need full corporate access, netbooks fill the need perfectly. They aren't too bulky, unlike say a 15" notebook, yet they aren't too crippled, like an iPhone/Android.

    Are they for everybody? Of course not, especially ones without cell-data capability. But then again, not everybody needs constant access to corporate network resources either.
    • I have an 11.6 inch notebook, and for me the larger screen and keyboard

      make all the difference in the world. 10 inches is just too small. and the keyboards just a little too cramped. Getting rid of the Windows security problems and complexity is a big plus for ChromeBooks.
      • Trade Windows security issues...


        ...for Google security problems. And don't tell me Google doesn't have any--think "Aurora". :)

        So anyone using a Chromebook becomes a big fat target for having all their data sucked up through a straw.

        Can't happen? That's what Sony thought...that's what Google thought...

        After all, the *POINT* of Chromebook is all user data in the cloud. Hacker holy grail.
  • Who wants this?

    I don't understand why Google thinks that Chrome stands a chance. There is a narrow window of time remaining in which real Windows netbooks are too slow to avoid being called "sucky" but that window is closing as both Intel and AMD rush to market with faster, lower-power x86 chipsets.<br><br>Who, besides the vast army of people who use Ubuntu now, will want Chrome on a netbook when they can have Windows and all their apps for pretty much the same cost?<br><br>I think the issue is whether the netbook really has much of a market in a world where tablets are getting more capable, and laptops are getting smaller and lighter. It seems to me if what you're really after is extreme portability and light weight, you go with the tablet. If you're really a "manager out in the field" who wants a computer, the laptops will be here soon enough. The netbooks are sorta sandwiched in the middle looking for a home.
    Robert Hahn
    • Manager in the field

      @Robert Hahn

      You may have misunderstood my post. Our managers are using 10" Win 7 netbooks, not Chomebooks.

      Laptops (13" and larger) are too bulky and heavy when folded up. You can put a netbook in a briefcase and have room for other stuff. You can't do that with a 13"+ laptop.
  • RE: Can Intel Cedar Trail Atom processors, along with Google Chromebooks, resurrect the netbook?

    The netbook didn't go anywhere. Tabets just decreased their usage. I see the same amount of new netbooks around right now that i saw four years ago.
  • RE: Can Intel Cedar Trail Atom processors, along with Google Chromebooks, resurrect the netbook?

    400GHZ and 600Ghz huh? Sounds mighty fast. I might just sell my graphics card and get one of these setups instead ;)
  • ChromeBooks are Laptops, not Netbooks.

    The current Google supported ChromeBooks are laptops and not netbooks since they have large screens and full size keyboards. The minimum specification is also higher than current Windows 7 netbooks despite the lower resource requirements of Chrome OS, and have hardware 2D and 3D video acceleration, browser and Flash graphics acceleration. There are two reasons for this.

    1) to ensure that there is no cannibalisation with Android tablets. Android is more portable and so smaller form factor, while Chrome OS is for luggable laptop form factor devices.
    2) Google wants to ensure a fast performance for browsing, games, and media consumption. Windows 7 netbooks drop in popularity is largely due to the poor performance and poor user experience of the Windows 7 desktop on the low end hardware specification of netbooks. Google doesn't want to repeat this on Chrome OS.