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Asus Eee PC1005PE, Atom N450 Pinetrail Launch
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Date: Dec 21, 2009
Section:Mobile
Author: Dave Altavilla and Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Specifications

If you consider Intel's design execution over the past 12 months or so, you'd have to admit it's nothing short of impressive.  Not only did we see the launch of a new desktop chip with the Core i7, but Intel then ramped up clock speeds, introduced lower-cost mainstream variants of the platform, and then drove that technology down into the mobile market with the introduction of Clarksfield, otherwise known as Core i7 mobile.  Of course all of that execution was centered around more powerful computing platforms with larger form factors, along with the thermal and power budgets that go with them.  These products, though huge contributors to Intel's bottom line, didn't cater to the ultra-mobile set of devices Intel affectionately calls "Netbooks" and "MIDs" - cash cows that Intel CEO, Paul Otellini holds near and dear to his heart, along with the company's investors. 

In fact, Intel's Atom processor and its various platforms for netbooks was relatively quiet, in terms of advancements this year, though Intel sold a boat load of these little chips to various OEMs for what has to be the hottest commodity of the past decade in computing  - the netbook.  And though the mainstream consumer has generally level-set their expectations of the average netbook computing experience, you can be sure the primary complaint, especially early in their introduction, was that netbooks just weren't powerful enough.  Thankfully, we've seen Intel roll-out a dual core Atom variant with the Atom 330 and NVIDIA helped the platform along nicely with the introduction of Ion and their integrated GPU technology.

Lest we forget, however, the innovation machine sometimes referred to as "Chipzilla", rolls on and today we're here to give you a taste of the next generation of Atom processors that will execute on a plan of attack that Intel's rival, AMD, has been waving around as something called "fusion" for a long time now, but has yet to deliver.  The Atom N450 processor has been launched today and it's comprised of a single core Atom chip with on-die graphics and memory controller. This level of integration, as we've
shown you recently, is also coming to Intel's notebook platforms, but today Atom gets it first for netbooks.  In the pages ahead we'll take a closer look at a new Eee PC from Asus with this new low-power Atom technology under its hood, as well as a view of the chip itself and its capabilities.


Asus Eee PC 1005PE In Midnight Blue        
  

Intel Atom N450 Processor & Asus Eee PC 1005PE
Specifications and Features
Intel Atom N450 (Pineview)
  • Core Frequency: 1.66GHz
  • DMI Speed - 2.5Gbps
  • TDP (Thermal Design Power) - <10W  
  • Stepping - A 
  • Number of CPU Cores - 1 (2 Threads w/ HT) 
  • Integrated Memory Controller 
  • Integrated DirectX 9 Graphics Processor 
  • L2 Cache - 512KB 
  • 45nm High-K 
  • PC99 Suspend To RAM Support 
  • Execute Disable Bit (XD) Enabled 
  • Intel 64 Technology 
  • Packaging -  MicroFCBGA8

    Asus Eee PC 1005PE
  • Atom N450 Processor 1.66GHz (Pineview)
  • 1GB DDR2 - 667MHZ
  • 250GB 5400RPM Seagate Hard Drive
  • Integrated 801.11B/G/N Wireless
  • Integrated BlueTooth Technology
  • 10/100 Ethernet
  • .3MP Web Cam
  • 6-cell Lithium Ion Battery
  • Claimed up to 14 hr battery life
  • Windows 7 Starter Edition
  • MSRP:  $299 - $379 ($379 as tested)

  • Atom N450 Die - Integrated DX9 GPU
    Dual-Core Variants Forthcoming


    Those of you that are astute (and we realize you all are very much so) will realize that unlike the higher-end Atom dual cores that Intel is shipping now, this is a single core Atom that has a monolithic (on die, not an MCM) graphics core that will drive cost, and theoretically power consumption, down.  In short, it's not a performance play that we're looking at here with this new chip and platform, though future iterations of the chip may take that track. This specific release is about about reaping the benefits of higher levels of integration between the CPU and graphics blocks.  
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    Intel Pinetrail Architectural Overview

    Intel is big on code names for their CPU and platform architectures and below we have a high level overview of Intel's Pinetrail platform that is driven by the Pineview processor, aka Atom N450.  So let's get these code names straight from the get-go;  again the platform is "Pinetrail" and the processor itself is "Pineview".  This new platform takes the previous generation Intel Atom system architecture from a three chip solution (CPU, Northbridge with integrated graphics, and Southbridge), to a two chip solution, with both the system memory controller and graphics blocks now resident on the processor die itself.

    Intel Pinetrail Platform and Atom N450 Processor

     

    The integration strategy taken here with Atom is very much the same approach that Intel has taken for their forthcoming Arrandale processor for notebooks with Core i5 and Core i3 processor cores.  However, for Atom the memory and graphics blocks are significantly scaled down to maintain the required power envelope.  With Pineview, the graphics core is a basic DX9 instantiation that is a kin to Intel's GMA500 graphics core in the previous generation Intel  945G chipset.  The memory controller is a single channel solution capable of supporting up to two SODIMM sockets with DDR2 support.  This is an on-chip memory controller now, which will offer lower latency characteristics versus the Northbridge implementation of old.  In addition, Intel has done away with the front side bus on the chip much like their Core iX architecture, and dropped in their serial DMI (Direct Media Interface) link to the NM10 Southbridge IO hub.  The new NM10 Atom Southbridge offers the traditional complement of SATA, USB and HD Audio support, in addition to a PCI Express fanout to optional peripherals like WiFi, LAN, WiMax or even an HD Video decoder.


    Beyond netbooks, Intel is also positioning their new integrated Atom line-up for entry-level desktops as well, otherwise known as nettops.  In addition to the N450, the Atom D410 variant offers the same single-core design (with HyperThreading) but takes system memory speeds up to  800MHz.  The Atom D510 is a dual-core design with 1MB of L2 cache and DDR2-800 speeds as well.  What's perhaps most impressive is that the entire line of processors runs within a thermal design power rating of  5.5W to a max of 13 Watts.  It seems almost inevitable that we should see various OEMs offering other types of thin-and-light notebooks or netbooks based on the dual-core Atom D510 as well.

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    Eee PC1005PE Design and Build Quality

    Our Intel Atom N450 and Pinetrail platform test vehicle came housed in an all new Asus Eee PC 1005PE netbook, decked out with a sleek, glossy midnight blue paint job and very high quality fit and finish.  This Eee PC is very similar from a mechanical design standpoint, to the Eee PC 1005HA we showed you here.  The machine is built from heavy gauge plastic and with its standard 6-cell battery, weighs in at almost 3lbs (2.8 to be exact).

      

      

    Side ports on the machine consist of three USB 2.0, one standard 10/100 Ethernet RJ45, headphone/line out, microphone input, SVGA output, an MMC/SD Flash Card reader and a Kensington lock port.  Just about every option you'd need on a machine of this class is available, save for perhaps an Express Card slot, which quite frankly is asking a lot in this form-factor.

      
    Multi-Touch, Multi-Gesture Trackpad Goodness and 14hr Battery Life? - We'll see about that...


    The multi-touch trackpad on this Eee PC is absolutely fantastic, with excellent response and the ability to zoom in and out, fast page up/down, and left/right easy scroll.  The zoom gesture was especially handy with the small 10.1" screen and 1024x600 resolution.  We preferred browsing the web with an 85% zoom which afforded more screen real estate and was easily adjusted with a simple outward pinching motion.


      

     

    The keyboard area of the Eee PC1005PE is still the cramped chiclet design we're use to seeing on netbooks in this size range.  However, without question, if you can handle typing in these tight quarters, the Eee PC1005PE delivers a solid feel with good tactile response and key travel.  The keyboard layout is a pretty standard 92% size with lots of function-mapped keys on the top row for toggling screen output, adjusting brightness, sound volume and the ability to turn off the WiFi radio as well as putting the netbook into sleep mode and wake up.

    The 10.1" LCD on the Eee PC1005PE is a glossy type panel with excellent brightness, contrast and color reproduction.  Occasional glare on the panel is fairly prominent, but not a huge distraction, and the LCD does perform well in daylight environments.  The case and the panel itself however, are fingerprint magnets, so we'd suggest keeping a microfiber cloth nearby to make short work of quick cleanups, especially if you tend to be obsessive-compulsive about your computing, as we are around the HH Labs.

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    Eee PC1005PE Bundle and User Experience

    Asus offers a fairly spartan package bundle with the Eee PC 1005PE.  In the retail price range of $299 - $379 for the higher end unit we tested, there isn't much room in the bill of materials for miscellaneous accoutrements.  Still, we would have appreciated perhaps even a soft chamois cloth pouch for protection during transport in a backpack or briefcase.

    What's perhaps the most impressive part of the bundle actually, is the tiny power brick that comes with this Eee PC.  It's fittingly minuscule and is indicative of how miserly the machine is with respect to power consumption.  More on this topic in our battery power performance section.


    Software Toggles To Disable Radios and Make Adjustments


    Splendid Color Enhancement Software for Video and Stills

    Though with respect to its hardware bundle, the Eee PC 1005PE may be a bit sparse, from a software perspective Asus delivers a number of useful utilities to complete the experience.  A trial ware version of Trend Micro Internet Security comes installed on the machine but utilities like CyberLink YouCam, which allows you to capture video and stills as well as upload directly to Youtube, offer key functionality to take advantage of the netbook's primary features.  Asus also bundles in tools like Eee Splendid for enhancing image quality of video and still images, as well as Asus WebStorage.  Asus WebStorage provides consumers an additional 500GB of cloud-based backup storage and its free for the first year.  After the first year, the service costs $29/year and your data will reside at an Asus-owned hosting facility. Basic backup software utilities installed on the Eee PC 1005PE can then automate backups of critical data.  It's a nice touch actually.


    Asus Game Park  - Free Downloadable Games, Playable On The Eee PC

    Asus Game Park is yet another Asus-built destination on the web that allows you to download a number of games that are built to run on this Eee PC.  These are all pretty much novelty games targeted toward the younger crowd, like Farm Frenzy Pizza Party.  For sure these aren't cutting-edge titles, but then again, it's a netbook, so the extent of your gaming experience is definitely going to be limited.  It was actually interesting to see what this Eee PC was capable of graphically speaking and though it wasn't much (no Call of Duty here boys and girls), there is actually a 3D engine resident on the Atom N450 and it does have a base level of support for Shader Model 2.0 effects.  More on this later as well.


    Streaming flash video at medium resolution was a disappointment.

    What this new Atom N450-powered machine couldn't do so well, was play streaming flash video content from our distribution partner, Viddler.  We fired up a standard resolution video file from HotHardware's archive and it brought the machine to its knees.  We're unclear as to why, if NVIDIA and AMD can offload flash to the GPU, that Intel couldn't figure out a way to get their IGP in on the assist for flash decode processing work or at least optimize an algorithm for the processor core. Hopefully with time, Intel can deliver something here in the future. That said, we were able to stream some medium resolution Youtube content as well as content on Hulu, so it wasn't that cut and dry.  Viewing flash video content on sites like Viddler, Blip.tv and Vimeo proved very challenging for this little machine, however, to the point that they were pretty much a showstopper.

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    Atom N450 Vital Signs

    Next we took a closer look at the Atom N450 and various details like its standard clock speeds, multipliers, cache pool and low power states.  CPU-Z reported the following information to us...

        
    Atom N450 At Idle and Loaded - System Memory Specs

    In an idle state, the processor drops down to a 6X multiplier with a resultant core speed of 1GHz.  At full load we see a 1.7GHz core speed, which is also being bolstered by the Asus Super Hybrid Engine software that comes pre-installed on this netbook and is overclocking the device slightly when set to its high performance mode.  At stock speed, as reported in the specification string from CPU-Z, the Atom N450 has a 1.66GHz core clock.  We also see that this Atom variant has 56K total of instruction and data L1 cache with 512K of L2 cache.  In terms of system memory, a single 1GB DDR2-800MHz SODIMM is installed in this netbook but its clocked at 667MHz in the BIOS of the machine.

    Finally, the Windows 7 Experience Index rating on the Eee PC 1005PE we tested, shows the weakest link being the processor, followed by the graphics core.  This is not surprising however and fairly representative of the average single core Atom netbook with Intel's previous generation 945G integrated graphics.

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    Test Setup and Futuremark 3DMark06

    HotHardware's Test Systems
    Covering the bases

    Asus Eee PC 1005PE
    Atom N450, 1.66GHz
    1GB DDR2-667
    Intel NM10 IO Hub
    On-Board Ethernet
    On-Board Audio
    250GB Seagate HD
    5400 RPM SATA
    Windows 7

    HP Mini 311
    Atom N270, 1.6GHz, FSB 533MHz
    2GB DDR2-800
    NVIDIA Ion
    On-Board Ethernet
    On-Board Audio
    250GB Seagate HD
    5400 RPM SATA
    Windows 7

    Asus Eee PC 1201N
    Atom 330, 1.6GHz, FSB 533MHz
    2GB DDR2
    NVIDIA Ion
    On-Board Ethernet
    On-Board Audio
    250GB Hitachi HD
    5400 RPM SATA

    Windows 7

    Acer Aspire Revo
    I
    ntel Atom 230
    NVIDIA ION board
    2GB DDR2-800
    NVIDIA ION
    160GB Toshiba HDD (5400 RPM, 8MB cache)
    Windows Vista

    Performance Comparisons with 3DMark06 v1.0.2
    Details: www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06


    3DMark06
    3DMark06 differs from its predecessor 3Dmark05 in a number of ways, and includes not only Shader Model 2.0 tests, but Shader Model 3.0 and HDR tests as well. Some of the assets from 3DMark05 have been re-used, but the scenes are now rendered with much more geometric detail and the shader complexity is vastly increased. Max shader length in 3DMark05 was 96 instructions, while 3DMark06 ups that number to 512. 3DMark06 also employs much more lighting and there is extensive use of soft shadows. With 3DMark06, Futuremark also changed how the final score is tabulated. In this latest version of the benchmark, SM 2.0 and HDR / SM3.0 tests are weighted and the CPU score is factored into the final tally as well.



    The Pinetrail-powered Asus Eee PC 1005 PE severely struggled with 3DMark06. The Atom N450 CPU / GMA 3150 hybrid posted a paltry 160 3DMarks, and couldn't even run the Shader Model 3.0 test. In terms of the CPU score, the N450 does outpace the Atom N270 nicely, but that's the only good news here.

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    Futuremark PCMark Vantage

    Next, we ran the Asus Eee PC 1005 PE through Futuremark’s latest system performance metric PCMark Vantage. This benchmark suite creates a host of different usage scenarios to simulate different types of workloads including High Definition TV and movie playback and manipulation, gaming, image editing and manipulation, music compression, communications, and productivity. We like the fact that most of the tests are multi-threaded as well, in order to exploit the additional resources offered by multi-core or HT-enabled processors.

    Futuremark PCMark Vantage
    Simulated Application Performance


    The Asus Eee PC 1005 PE didn't fare very well in the 3DMark06 benchmark on the previous page, but it did much better in Vantage. Here, the Asus Eee PC 1005PE pulls ahead of the Ion-powered HP Mini 311 in every test, except for gaming. The much more powerful GPU in the Mini 311 gives it a significant edge in the pixel-pushing department, as is evident in the results. The other scores, however, paint the Pinetrail-based Asus Eee PC 1005PE in a much more favorable light.

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    SiSoftware Sandra & Multimedia Benchmarks

    We continued our testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA 2009, the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant.  We ran four of the built-in subsystem tests on the Asus Eee PC 1005PE (CPU Arithmetic, Multimedia, Memory Bandwidth, Physical Disks) and have the full results posted below.

    Testing with SiSoft SANDRA 2009
    Synthetic Benchmarks


    CPU Arithmetic Test

    CPU Multimedia Test

    Memory Bandwidth Test

    Physical Disc Test

    The Asus Eee PC 1005PE performed exactly as expected in the various SiSoft SANDRA benchmarks we ran. In the Processor Arithmetic and Multimedia benchmarks, the N450 in the 1005PE performs just slightly better than the other single-core Atom offerings but obviously trails the dual-core Atom 330 by a significant margin. In the Memory Bandwidth and Physical Disk tests, however, the Asus Eee PC 1005PE actually pulls ahead of the components listed in SANDRA's database.  From the a memory bandwidth standpoint, the Atom N450 integrated memory controller is offering a nice boost in performance.

    To test multimedia capabilities, we attempted to play back 720p WMVHD clips, a 720p H.264 clips and a 1080p content in both formats as well.  We ran tests in both Windows Media Player 12 for Window 7 and with the latest version of Apple Quicktime for H.264 encoded content.



    Click To Enlarge, 720P WMVHD on Asus Eee PC 1005 PE


    Click To Enlarge, 720P H.264 on Asus Eee PC 1005 PE


    Click To Enlarge, 1080P H.264 using WMP on Asus Eee PC 1005 PE


    Click To Enlarge, 1080P H.264 using QuickTime on Asus Eee PC 1005 PE


    Click To Enlarge, 1080P WMVHD on Asus Eee PC 1005 PE


    Click To Enlarge; 1080p on HP Mini 311 w/ Ion


    Click To Enlarge; 1080p on Lenovo S10, Atom + 945GME

    Although the system and component level benchmarks of Vantage and SANDRA show the Pinetrail-based Asus Eee PC 1005PE performing fairly well in comparison to the previous generation Atom platforms, Pinetrail's integrated GPU didn't help it very much at all in the multimedia department. In all of our HD video playback tests, whether using Windows Media Player or QuickTime (or even PowerDVD, not shown), the Asus Eee PC 1005PE's Atom N450 CPU was essentially pegged at or near 100% utilization. That meant dropped frames, sluggish system performance, and multitasking was essentially out of the question.  Though 720p clips in general were more fluid than 1080p content, neither H.264 or Window Media HD content was met with smooth playback on the machine. 

    Competitively, the Ion-based HP Mini 311 (which also is built on a single core Atom CPU) was able to handle either 720p or 1080p HD video playback smoothly, though it had to work for it a bit.  This is thanks to its NVIDIA GeForce mGPU, which does much of the video decoding work for the CPU in the Ion platform.  At least when it comes to netbooks, Intel has some work to do on its graphics core.  Conversely, Intel's forthcoming Arrandale processor for notebooks however, as we peeked into at IDF earlier this year, is a different ball of wax all together.
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    Battery Performance

    To test the battery life of the Pinetrail-based Asus Eee PC 1005PE, we ran Battery Eater Pro. We used BEP’s built-in Classic test which loads both the CPU and GPU until the battery runs out of power. During the test, wireless radios were enabled, audio was on, and the screen was set to always on, though auto power saving mode with Asus' Super Hybrid Engine software was enabled.  The following benchmark is sort of a worst case scenario, real-world test setup.  Since it continually taxes the graphics processor as well as the CPU, you could argue that battery life may in fact be longer under lighter duty workloads like simple word processing. 

    However, trade-offs are also in place in other areas as well.  For example, web browsing would exercise networking components in the system, which otherwise in our test setup remain almost entirely idle.  As such, we feel that no one specific battery test condition can measure battery life completely from all usage models.  That said, as long as the playing field is level, we can easily measure battery life of a product competitively versus peer products in a given category.

    Battery Eater Pro
    Battery Info & Performance


    Asus Eee PC 1005PE Standard 6-Cell Battery



    When all was said and done, the Asus Eee PC 1005PE lasted an impressive 416 minutes in Battery Eater Pro's Classic test with its stock 6-cell battery, or roughly 6.9 hours.  Although the machine's performance is about on par with or slightly better than Atom / 945G based netbooks, the Asus Eee PC 1005PE and its Pinetrail platform seem to offer measurably better battery life. If the machine lasted 6.9 hours with BEP, which puts a heavy load on the processor and graphics core as well, significantly longer battery life can be expected from this machine under less strenuous circumstances.  Whether or not you can actually realize the Asus-claimed 14hr mark that is so boldly emblazoned on the product, is another story. 

    Incidentally, we also measured the Eee PC 1005PE's power draw from its tiny AC adapter brick, under both idle conditions and when the machine was under full load.  This netbook draws as little as 8.4 Watts when idle and peaked out at 15.2 Watts under load - it's pretty amazing actually.

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    Summary and Conclusion

    Performance Summary -
    The new Intel Atom N450 and its netbook platform vehicle that we tested, the Asus Eee PC 1005PE, offered a stronger general computing experience versus Intel's legacy single-core Atom variants.  This was easily seen in each and every one of our stock benchmarks like PCMark Vantage, SiSoft SANDRA and 3DMark06. Where the Atom N450 fell a little flat was an area that Intel has had their work cut out for themselves for a long time now - that being video decode and 3D rendering.  Though the Atom N450 offers a better general computing experience for the Asus Eee PC 1005PE, we were left wanting a bit more on the multimedia side of the equation, with the system's inability to handle even 720p content and struggling occasionally with certain flash video streams. Finally, what was more than impressive was that, even with its somewhat higher general computing performance, this Eee PC lasted longer on a battery charge than any other netbook we've tested to date.



    Atom N450 - Intel's First Fully Integrated CPU and GPU Single-Chip Processor


    Asus Eee PC 1005PE - Sets New Battery Life Standards For Netbooks




    Considering this is almost an entirely new netbook platform, out of the gate, we're impressed with what Intel has been able to deliver with the Atom N450.  Admittedly, the power user in us is yearning for a dual-core version of Pineview, though we have to concede that many users will be satisfied with this level of performance in a netbook.  In fact, the Eee PC 1005PE offered a relatively snappy experience in Windows 7, though our machine was configured with a mere 1GB of DDR2 memory.  What we'd really like to see is just a bit more optimization on multimedia performance, especially with respect to video decode.  It's almost as if it might actually be available in the current hardware generation as well, though Intel's driver team may have to step it up a notch. 

    From a design and functionality perspective, Intel chose a fine partner to lead in Asus and the Eee PC 1005PE is a very impressive little machine for the price.  The fit and finish of this netbook is second to none, it weighs in at just under a svelte 3lbs and looks plenty stylish to boot.  What really knocked our socks off was the machine's battery life performance.  Though perhaps its 14 hour battery life claim is a bit optimistic, it's quite possible under light duty workload, that this netbook could last even longer than our demonstrated 7 hour output. 

    When you consider the end result here, you have to hand it to Intel for delivering more performance in a lower power platform, that was already just sipping on the average 3 or 6-cell battery.  We're looking forward to watching this evolution of Atom take shape in new products down the road and how far Intel can take this one-chip wonder in the future.

         
    • Higher single core performance versus previous generation
    • Lower power consumption
    • Potentially lower cost model
    • Sleek, well-built Eee PC
    • 7hr demonstrated battery life
    • Lack-luster video playback
    • Problems with some flash video streams
    • Graphics still too low-end for even light duty 3D gaming




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