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What to expect from desktop and mobile processors in 2010

We look at what's on the cards for CPUs this year

From mighty six-core desktop chips to miniscule smartbook processors, here's a look at what's on the cards for CPUs this year.

Netbook CPUs

No vendor seems prepared to challenge Intel on the netbook front this year - AMD has nothing to offer, and Via's new Nano 3300-series CPUs are aimed at the desktop and thin-and-light markets.

And even Intel itself has announced only one new Atom processor for this market segment.

The Atom N450 is a single-core processor with 512KB of L2 cache. It runs at 1.66GHz with a 667MHz front-side bus, and it supports hyperthreading.

Like desktop-oriented Atom processors, the big news with the N450 is the integration of the memory controller into the CPU, which reduces the platform chip count from three to two.

Smartbook CPUs

The outlook is quite different for smartbooks - but offering any predictions about the smartbook market is nothing more than rank speculation, because this class of machine barely exists today.

Smartbooks are expected to be smaller, lighter and cheaper than netbooks, and subsidies from mobilel-phone providers could even render them 'free' - provided you sign a long-term data-plan contract, of course.

It's widely speculated that ARM's Cortex-A8 and Cortex-A9 processors will become the CPUs of choice for the first generation of smartbooks.

ARM doesn't build its own processors; instead it licences its designs to other manufacturers who incorporate the designs into their own platforms.

Cortex chips can currently be found in Freescale's i.MX515, Nvidia's Tegra series, Qualcomm's Snapdragon series and Texas Instruments' OMAP 3 series.

Designing a smartbook based on an ARM processor will entail trade-offs, according to some industry analysts.

"ARM-based smartbooks can't run the desktop version of Windows," says Halfhill.

"Instead, they will run Windows Mobile or GNU/Linux. My opinion is that most users will prefer a netbook that runs standard Windows apps, but others disagree.

Apple could nudge the market in the ARM direction by introducing an iPhone-compatible smartbook."

NEXT PAGE: Looking further out

  1. We look at what's on the cards for CPUs this year
  2. Desktop processors
  3. Low-power desktop CPUs
  4. Full-size laptop CPUs
  5. Netbook CPUs
  6. Looking further out

See all: Processor reviews


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