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Intel Dual-Core Atom Netbooks Hit the Streets

Chipmaking giant Intel has announced that netbook computers based on Intel’s dual-core N550 processor are going on sale today at retailers, promising performance boosts for games, video, and entertainment applications—as well as those daring souls who might be running multithreaded productivity applications on a netbook. Intel claims the N550s offer improved application performance—Intel specifically calls out Hulu and YouTube—with battery life in the same range as the single-core Atom N450 CPU, along with support for faster DDR3 memory.

The Atom N550 is the latest in Intel’s dual-core Atom line; it sports a 1.5 GHz clock speed with 1 MB of L2 cache and supports Intel’s hyper-threading technology, which in theory means support for up to four simultaneous execution threads. Netbooks from makers like Acer, Asus, Fujitsu, Lenovo, LG, Samsung, Toshiba, and MSI. Intel says models are available now, although it may take a few days for retailers to get them onto shelves. Configurations will vary among manufacturers: Asus is planning to pair the N550 with Nvidia Ion graphics.

Intel also took a moment to tout the success of the Atom line, noting that about 70 million Atom chips “for netbooks” have been shipped since the line launched in 2008…we don’t know if that figure includes chips that wound up in so-called “nettop” small form-factor desktop computers and media center devices.

If Intel’s battery life claims bear out, expect the Atom N550 to quickly dominate the upper echelon of netbook products…which in turn may make single-core netbooks even less expensive.

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