Today we had the chance to test one of the first available Atom desktop boards. While this is still a pre-production sample with an alpha BIOS, we could still run some benchmarks on it. We are sure that many of you are excited to see how this 4W TDP CPU actually performs.
For Atom, Intel uses the old 945GC Northbridge with the ICH7 Southbridge. From the specs we have seen the chipset draws more power than the CPU itself. The tiny CPU is a stripped Core derived unit with 512kB of L2 Cache, 1.60GHz clock and only 133MHz FSB (533MHz quad pumped bus). It doesn't offer any special features, except that Intel re-worked their Hyperthreading feature, which will boost this single core's performance in some applications. The BIOS allows for DDR2-667 memory, but that did not work, so we were stuck at DDR2-533 speed with CL4-4-4 latencies.
The board is a mini-ITX form factor. We can't reveal more details or pictures, but we can show you the rear I/O panel. It seems like legacy connectors are back in action.
Installating Windows XP worked without problems, but during decompression of the Windows files, you can feel that it is quite slow. In normal operations, such as surfing the wibble-wobble, you won't notice it.
The first benchmark we ran was "lame", and this time we took a couple of screenshots, because it was unbelievably slow.
lamemt checks for hyperthreading, and it works.
Intel is already selling a mini-ITX board called D201GLY, and this plaform has a Celeron 220 CPU. As we have one we decided to compare them, as this platform is fitted with a Conroe-L Celeron 220. We know this is a slower CPU, as it's only clocked at 1.2GHz, but in some tests it was more than twice as fast as the Atom N230. It scored 11.260x in Lame. As it's a single core CPU without Hyperthreading the benchmark runs within a single thread.
We also ran some other benchmarks, such as SuperPi and Sandra:
Sandra tells us that the 1.6GHz Atom is about two times slower than the single core Celeron 420 at the same clock speed, at least in the FPU test. It was funny to notice that the 3GHz Core 2 Duo E8400 scores ten times better than the Atom 230.
As long as you don't use any multi-media applications, the system runs fine. So the most common use will be for POS systems or surfing stations. But if you think you want to do some multi-media stuff, just forget it, it's too slow.
We didn't really have much time to play with this Atom N230-based setup, but as you can see the CPU doesn't really do well in multi-media applications. It doesn't even render that well, as Cinebench was incredibly slow, slower than we've seen in years.
On the other side, the CPU is great for surfing, typing, instant messanging and listening to music. It even plays videos just fine, whether on youtube or some .avi/.mkv files, as long as you use the VideoLAN player or ffdshow.
It doesn't consume much power, but at the same time, in multi-media applications it's slower than older Celerons, including 220 that we tested. Power consumption is only about 5W less compared to the Celeron 220 platform and it will stay under 40W. These first scores leave a bitter taste in the mouth, don't they?