Intel atom

This article is about the original line of Atom processors. For system on chips processors, see Atom (system on chip).

Intel Atom
Produced 2003-2009 (as Centrino)
2008-2009 (as Centrino Atom)
2008–present (as Atom)
Common manufacturer(s)
  • Intel
Max. CPU clock rate 600 MHz to 2.13 GHz
FSB speeds 400 MHz to 667 MHz
Min. feature size 45 nm to 32 nm
Instruction set MMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, SSSE3, IA-32, x86-64 (not for the N2xx and Z5xx series)
Cores 1, 2, 8
Core name(s)
  • Silverthorne
  • Diamondville
  • Pineview
  • Lincroft
  • Centerton
  • Avoton (future)
  • Silvermont

Intel Atom is the brand name for a line of ultra-low-voltage IA-32 and Intel 64 (x86-64) CPUs (or microprocessors) from Intel, originally designed in 45 nm CMOS with subsequent models, codenamed Cedar, using a 32 nm process.[2] Atom is mainly used in netbooks, nettops, embedded applications ranging from health care to advanced robotics, and mobile Internet devices (MIDs).

Atom processors are based on the Bonnell microarchitecture.[3][4] On 21 December 2009, Intel announced the Pine Trail platform, including new Atom processor code-named Pineview (Atom N450), with total kit power consumption down 20%.[5] On 28 December 2011, Intel updated the Atom line with the Cedar processors.[2]

In December 2012, Intel launched the 64-bit Centerton family of Atom CPUs, designed specifically for use in servers.[6] Centerton adds features previously unavailable in Atom processors, such as Intel VT virtualization technology and support for ECC memory.[7] On 4 September 2013 Intel launched a 22 nm successor to Centerton, codenamed Avoton.[8]


Intel Atom is a direct successor of the Intel A100 and A110 low-power microprocessors (code-named Stealey), which were built on a 90 nm process, had 512 kB L2 cache and ran at 600 MHz/800 MHz with 3W TDP (Thermal Design Power). Prior to the Silverthorne announcement, outside sources had speculated that Atom would compete with AMD's Geode system-on-a-chip processors, used by the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project, and other cost and power sensitive applications for x86 processors. However, Intel revealed on 15 October 2007 that it was developing another new mobile processor, codenamed Diamondville, for OLPC-type devices.[9]

"Atom" was the name under which Silverthorne would be sold, while the supporting chipset formerly code-named Menlow was called Centrino Atom.[10]

At Spring Intel Developer Forum (IDF) 2008 in Shanghai, Intel officially announced that Silverthorne and Diamondville are based on the same microarchitecture. Silverthorne would be called the Atom Z5xx series and Diamondville would be called the Atom N2xx series. The more expensive lower-power Silverthorne parts will be used in Intel mobile Internet devices (MIDs) whereas Diamondville will be used in low-cost desktop and notebooks. Several Mini-ITX motherboard samples have also been revealed.[11] Intel and Lenovo also jointly announced an Atom powered MID called the IdeaPad U8.[12]

In April 2008, a MID development kit was announced by Sophia Systems[13] and the first board called CoreExpress-ECO was revealed by a German company LiPPERT Embedded Computers, GmbH.[14] Intel offers Atom based motherboards.[15][16]

In December 2012, Intel released Atom for servers, the S1200 series. The primary difference between these processors and all prior versions, is that ECC memory support has been added, enabling use of the Atom in mission-critical server environments that demand redundancy and memory failure protection.

Intel Atom processor family[17]
MID / Ultra-mobile PC / Lifestyle PC
Logo Code-name Series Core On-die GPU GPU speed TDP HT Intel 64 Intel VT-x Release date

Intel Atom logo 2008 Silverthorne Atom Z5xx single (45 nm) No 200 MHz 0.65~2 W No No No April 2008
2~2.4 W Yes No
Intel Atom logo 2009 Lincroft Atom Z6xx single (45 nm) Yes 400 MHz 1.3~3 W Yes No No May 2010
Classmate PC / Netbook / Nettop / Lifestyle PC
Logo Code-name Series Core On-die GPU GPU speed TDP HT Intel 64 Intel VT-x Release date

Intel Atom logo 2008 Diamondville Atom N2xx single (45 nm) No n/a 2.5 W Yes No No June 2008
Atom 2xx 4 W Yes
(if enabled)
Atom 3xx dual (45 nm) 8 W September 2008
Intel Atom logo 2009 Pineview Atom N4xx single (45 nm) Yes 200 MHz 6.5 W Yes Yes
(if enabled)
No January 2010
Atom D4xx 400 MHz 10 W
Atom N5xx dual (45 nm) 200 MHz 8.5 W
Atom D5xx 400 MHz 13 W
Cedarview Atom D2500 dual (32 nm) Yes 400 MHz 10 W No Yes
(if enabled)
No November 2011
Atom D2700 640 MHz Yes
Atom N2600 400 MHz 3.5 W December 2011
Atom N2800 640 MHz 6.5 W
Logo Code-name Series Core On-die GPU GPU speed TDP HT Intel 64 Intel VT-x Release date
Intel Atom logo 2009 Centerton Atom S1220 dual (32 nm) Unknown 1.60 GHz 8.1 W Yes Yes Yes December 2012
Atom S1240 1.60 GHz 6.1 W
Atom S1260 2.00 GHz 8.6 W
List of Intel Atom microprocessors

Instruction set architecture

32-bit and 64-bit hardware support

All Atom processors implement the x86 (IA-32) instruction set; however, support for the Intel 64 instruction set was not added until the desktop Diamondville and desktop and mobile Pineview cores. The Atom N2xx and Z5xx series Atom models cannot run x86-64 code.[18] The Centerton server processors will support the Intel 64 instruction set.[7]

Intel 64 software support

Intel states the Atom supports 64-bit operation only "with a processor, chipset, BIOS" that all support Intel 64. Those Atom systems not supporting all of these cannot enable Intel 64.[19] As a result, the ability of an Atom-based system to run 64-bit versions of operating systems such as Ubuntu or Debian GNU/Linux may vary from one motherboard to another. Online retailer has tested Atom-based motherboards made by Intel and Jetway, and while they were able to install 64-bit versions of Linux on Intel-branded motherboards with D2700 (Pineview) processors, Intel 64 support was not enabled on a Jetway-branded motherboard with a D2550 (Pineview) processor.[20]

Even among Atom-based systems which have Intel 64 enabled, not all are able to run 64-bit versions of Microsoft Windows. For those Pineview processors which support 64-bit operation, Intel Download Center currently provides 64-bit Windows 7 and Windows Vista drivers for Intel GMA 3150 graphics, found in Pineview processors.[21] However, no 64-bit Windows drivers are available for newer Atom Cedarview processors at this time.[22]

The lack of 64-bit Windows support for Cedarview processors appears to be due to a driver issue. A member of the Intel Enthusiast Team has stated in a series of posts on enthusiast site Tom's Hardware that while the Atom D2700 (Pineview) was designed with Intel 64 support, due to a "limitation of the board" Intel had pulled their previously-available 64-bit drivers for Windows 7 and would not provide any further 64-bit support.[23] Some system manufacturers have similarly stated that their motherboards with Atom Cedarview processors lack 64-bit support due to a "lack of Intel® 64-bit VGA driver support".[24] Because all Cedarview processors use the same Intel GMA 3600 or 3650 graphics as the D2700, this indicates that Atom Cedarview systems will remain unable to run 64-bit versions of Windows, even those which have Intel 64 enabled and are able to run 64-bit versions of Linux.


Atom processors became available to system manufacturers in 2008. Because they are soldered, like northbridges and southbridges, onto a mainboard, Atom processors are not available to home users or system builders as separate processors, although they may be obtained preinstalled on some ITX motherboards. The Diamondville and Pineview[25] Atom is used in the HP Mini Series, aigo MID Asus N10, Lenovo IdeaPad S10, Acer Aspire One & Packard Bell's "dot" (ZG5), recent ASUS Eee PC systems, Sony VAIO M-series, AMtek Elego, Dell Inspiron Mini Series, Gigabyte M912, LG X Series, Samsung NC10, Sylvania g Netbook Meso, Toshiba NB series (100, 200, 205, 255, 300, 500, 505), MSI Wind PC netbooks, RedFox Wizbook 1020i, Sony Vaio X Series, Zenith Z-Book, a range of Aleutia desktops, Magic W3 and the Archos


The performance of a single core Atom is about half that of a Pentium M of the same clock rate. For example, the Atom N270 (1.60 GHz) found in many netbooks such as the Eee PC can deliver around 3300 MIPS and 2.1 GFLOPS in standard benchmarks,[26] compared to 7400 MIPS and 3.9 GFLOPS for the similarly clocked (1.73 GHz) Pentium M 740.[27]

The Pineview platform has proven to be only slightly faster than the previous Diamondville platform. This is because the Pineview platform uses the same Bonnell execution core as Diamondville and is connected to the memory controller via the FSB, hence memory latency and performance in CPU-intensive applications are minimally improved.[28]

Bonnell microarchitecture

Intel Atom processors are based on the Bonnell microarchitecture,[3][4] which can execute up to two instructions per cycle. Like many other x86 microprocessors, it translates x86-instructions (CISC instructions) into simpler internal operations (sometimes referred to as micro-ops, i.e., effectively RISC style instructions) prior to execution. The majority of instructions produce one micro-op when translated, with around 4% of instructions used in typical programs producing multiple micro-ops. The number of instructions that produce more than one micro-op is significantly fewer than the P6 and NetBurst microarchitectures. In the Bonnell microarchitecture, internal micro-ops can contain both a memory load and a memory store in connection with an ALU operation, thus being more similar to the x86 level and more powerful than the micro-ops used in previous designs.[29] This enables relatively good performance with only two integer ALUs, and without any instruction reordering, speculative execution, or register renaming. The Bonnell microarchitecture therefore represents a partial revival of the principles used in earlier Intel designs such as P5 and the i486, with the sole purpose of enhancing the performance per watt ratio. However, Hyper-Threading is implemented in an easy (i.e., low power) way to employ the whole pipeline efficiently by avoiding the typical single thread dependencies.[29]


In March 2009, Intel announced that it would be collaborating with TSMC for the production of the Atom processors.[30] The deal was put on hold due to lack of demand in 2010.

On 13 September 2011 Intel and Google held a joint announcement of a partnership to provide support in Google's Android operating system for Intel processors (beginning with the Atom). This would allow Intel to supply chips for the growing smartphone and tablet market.[31]


Embedded processors based on the ARM version 7 instruction set architecture (such as Nvidia's Tegra 3 series, TI's 4 series and Freescale's i.MX51 based on the Cortex-A8 core, or the Qualcomm Snapdragon and Marvell Armada 500/600 based on custom ARMv7 implementations) offer similar performance to the low end Atom chipsets[dubious ] but at roughly one quarter the power consumption, and (like most ARM systems) as a single integrated system on a chip, rather than a two chip solution like the current Atom line. Although the second-generation Atom codenamed "Pineview" should greatly increase its competitiveness in performance/watt, ARM plans to counter the threat with the multi-core capable Cortex-A9 core as used in Nvidia's Tegra 2/3, TI's OMAP 4 series, and Qualcomm's next-generation Snapdragon series, among others.

The Nano and Nano Dual-Core series from VIA is slightly above the average thermal envelope of the Atom, but offers hardware AES support, random number generators, and out-of-order execution. Performance comparisons of the Intel Atom against the Via Nano indicate that a single core Intel Atom is outperformed by the Via Nano which is in turn outperformed by a dual core Intel Atom 330 in tests where the second core is used. The Core 2 Duo SU7300 outperforms the dual-core Nano.[32][33][34][35][36][37][38][39]

The Xcore86 (also known as the PMX 1000) is x586 based System on Chip (SoC) that offers a below average thermal envelope compared to the Atom.

Kenton Williston of EE Times said that while Atom will not displace ARM from its current markets, the ability to apply the PC architecture into smaller, cheaper and lower power form factors will open up new markets for Intel.[40]

Planned Atom versions

A 22 nm Atom chip, code name Silvermont, is planned for 2013 release.

Intel has also released plans for Atom chips with 14 nm architecture. This chip, codenamed Airmont, is expected to be released in 2014.

Each chip is expected to provide improved performance while consuming less electricity. The Airmont Atom is expected to consume only 15 watts or less.

See also



  • - Intel announces first Atom chips
  • - Inside Atom Architecture
  • - Intel Atom N280 vs N270 Benchmarked
  • LinuxTECH.NET - Intel Pineview Atom based Motherboards Complete Overview

External links

  • Intel - Intel Atom Processor Overview
  • Intel Atom Processor
  • Intel - Intel Atom Processor Family
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