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Posted on November 12th, 2008 by David Bayon

Dual-core Atom 330 benchmarked

The big arrival in the Labs yesterday was a barebones PC chassis from Shuttle, with something very special sitting inside: the very first dual-core Atom processor we’ve seen. The original Atom has been at the heart of the huge shake-up in the laptop industry over the past year, with the vast majority of the big guns opting for Intel in their netbooks. If the new dual-core model can live up to the hype it has the potential to trigger a whole new wave of more powerful netbooks.

Called the Intel Atom 330, it runs at the same 1.6GHz frequency as its single-core predecessors, with a 533MHz FSB. With two cores and support for Intel’s Hyper-Threading technology, it appears to the system as four cores (as shown right). Being a desktop part, it comes soldered to an improved mini-ITX motherboard, now with a single DDR2-667 slot, Gigabit Ethernet and six-channel audio to go with the usual array of inputs and outputs.

We used a 7,200rpm SATA hard disk and 1GB of DDR2 to get our test rig set up, slapping on a fresh XP SP3 install to best compare the Atom 330 to the existing netbooks that will make up its primary competition. After installing all the drivers and running Windows update we installed our benchmark suite and set it to work overnight.

Now, to set the scene, the single-core Atom N270s we’ve seen in pretty much every netbook worth a review have scored anything from 0.3 to 0.44 in our benchmarks – our current A List choice, the brand new Samsung NC10, holds that top score, and we’re pretty sure that’s due to the extra time Samsung has had to apply some clever optimisation. The Atom 330 won’t be running at its quickest just yet, but we still expect a score in excess of that, and our multitasking test should show the largest margin of improvement. As an added contrast, we’ll also compare a VIA C7-D system, which recently scored 0.36.

The Results

Overall

The overall results are a little lower than we expected. (Note, all results are relative to our baseline Pentium D system, which scored 1.0). Yes, the Atom 330 is quicker than its predecessor – no surprise there – but we expected it to be by more than 16%. The individual tests make for more interesting reading, though, and explain where the Atom really excels.

Office

In our combination of Office 2003 tests it actually failed to match either the old Atom or the VIA – this is clearly the result that’s bringing the overall average down, but despite repeated retests it consistently occurred. We could put it down to the Samsung NC10’s tweaked internals, as if we look at the first few Atom N270 devices they were closer to the 0.4 mark, lower than the 330’s result. More likely, it’s just the fact that Office 2003 is not a particularly processor-intensive benchmark, and doesn’t make efficient use of multiple threads.

2D Graphics

By contrast, our 2D graphics tests comprise a variety of tasks in CorelDRAW, Photoshop and 3ds Max – tests which are ideally suited to multiple cores and Hyper-Threading. The Atom 330 dutifully comes into its own on this test, beating the N270 by 41% and the VIA by a whopping 71%.

Encoding

For encoding we use dbPowerAmp and Canopus ProCoder to encode a variety of audio and video files simultaneously – a particularly intensive task. As you can see, here the Atom 330 merely edged it, by 18% over the N720 and 39% over the VIA.

Multitasking

Finally, our multitasking test runs all of the previous tests at once, a test of brute strength which low-power netbooks are simply not designed for. The fact that the Atom 330 scored 0.62, compared to the 1.0 of our baseline Pentium D system, demonstrates just how close today’s tiny netbooks may soon be getting to what was considered immensely powerful – and ran hotter than molten lava – just a few years ago.

Conclusion

All in all it’s a broadly impressive start for the Atom 330, performing best in the most processor-intensive tasks as you would expect. But the real question – and one we can’t answer until the netbook parts appear – is how that second core will impact on battery life. The quoted TDP of the Atom 330 is 8W, twice that of the old N270. It’s all well and good boosting the productivity of your netbook, particular with regard to running more than one application at once, but if the Eee PC’s fantastic battery falls from seven hours to three or four as a result, the 330 might not quite make it to the must-have level of its single-core predecessor.

Will netbooks move even closer to laptops with this CPU? Or will manufacturers keep it reserved for dearer models or desktop systems only? Time will tell, and we’ll bring you the results as soon as we get hold of one.

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35 Responses to “ Dual-core Atom 330 benchmarked ”

  1. Jim Says:
    November 13th, 2008 at 10:32 am

    I really fancy one of these in a Linux-based netbook and it’s why I’m holding off getting one. The battery life question is the biggy though. My current laptop, a Dell XPS M1330, is fairly thirsty though adequate for my needs. A netbook with this kind of power and 5+ hour battery would do the job nicely.

     
  2. Anon Says:
    November 13th, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    Any idea when Netbooks with these dual-cores will start to appear on the markeT? I want to buy my partner one for Christmas – am I better off waiting ’till after?

     
  3. Android Says:
    November 13th, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    hmm, a bit disappointing. Hope it gets better down the road.

     
  4. Robot Warrior Says:
    November 13th, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    Have you guys heard of industry standard benchmarks?!

     
  5. Fingers McPokey Says:
    November 13th, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    Robot, the problem with Industry Standard benchmarks is that they are industry standard! It means that people create hardware, drivers, etc. specifically to do well in those tests, at the expense of real world performance.

    That’s what I really like about PC Pro’s benchmarks – they use real world application software. Exactly the kind of things that you’d be running if you bought one of those machines.

    It gives a much better gauge of how fast the machine will actually feel when you fire it up on the train or whatever, whereas the Industry Standard benchmarks simply tell you how fast a machine is at running industry standard benchmarks. To my mind it’s as useless as an IQ test.

     
  6. Dirk Mantooth Says:
    November 13th, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    I gotta say I’m shocked to see this. I built a PC with the Atom 270 last summer and while it worked alright for a while, it just couldn’t handle XP for a long time let alone multiple applications. I got the Atom 330 about the day it came out and the difference is like night and day. I know the benchmarks say otherwise, but I really feel that this runs twice as fast. While doing the same amount of programs that would normally bog down the 270, the 330 would only be at around 50% CPU usage and still going strong. But be warned to those that wish to build one of these nettops, if you use any less than 2GB of ram, thou shalt be screwed.

     
  7. Jeff Says:
    November 13th, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    Guys, the only possibility that you miht see something like this in a netbook is if Windows 7 somehow runs great on it. IT exceeds the requirements of XP and they sure as heck shouldn’t try to sell it running Vista, and we all should know now that Linux builds (while being flippin’ awesome) just don’t sell to the average joe user. Or even most semi-experienced joes shmoes.

    Just a thought I guess.

     
  8. Jeff Says:
    November 13th, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    Oh and PS… Dirk you’re name is wicked awesome and I completely agree. I made one of these in a tiny Apex box and while it doesn’t show much in “running office” it does shine in running virtual environments and multiple CPU intensive applications. At time’s leapfrogging my single core MSI Wind.

     
  9. Mike Says:
    November 13th, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    Why doesn’t Intel update the chipset to something more powerful and efficient, similar to how AMD has the 780G. That would make up for the additional powerdraw from the dual core processor.

     
  10. Bill Says:
    November 13th, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    A critique…

    1) Why 1 stick of 1GB RAM? Most people will want to get 2GB now that memory is so cheap.

    2) What’s the point of comparing the Atom 330 relative to the Pentium D? You didn’t even bother to mention the specs of your base system. So from the tables I get the impression that the Atom 330 is half as fast as the Pentium D in Office but what does that exactly mean?

    3) Double the TDP does not mean double the power consumption. You should know that. If you wanted to dwell on the topic why not post some power consumption numbers? A Kill a Watt unit is pretty cheap and would be invaluable for future reviews.

     
  11. Mace Moneta Says:
    November 13th, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    Either there’s something very wrong with this chip, or there’s something very wrong with the benchmark. A multiprocessor should be able to achieve 180+% of a uniprocessor throughput. If that’s not happening, either something is badly broken or the measurement is invalid.

     
  12. Bill Says:
    November 13th, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    One more thing…

    Double the cores does not mean double the performance especially if the clock speed is the same. Some applications have poor multi thread optimization. If you want to test dual core performance I suggest you do a compression/extraction test with WinRAR (multi threaded) and manually set the core affinity to use both cores. Make sure WinRAR is not using 2 threads of the same core instead of both cores in the Atom 330.

     
  13. Bill Says:
    November 13th, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    To clarify, my post was not aimed at Mace but the reviewer. I also believe that the benchmarks do not do the Atom 330 any justice.

     
  14. Artthur Says:
    November 14th, 2008 at 7:39 am

    It was MSI mainboard with VIA C7-D 2.0GHz (MSI Titan 700) ?

     
  15. joy Says:
    November 14th, 2008 at 8:33 am

    Hei guys
    This stor is very old…. a German Media reviewed the Dual-Core CPU over 2 months ago…

    http://www.minitechnet.de/intel_d945gclf2_1.html

     
  16. David Bayon Says:
    November 14th, 2008 at 10:50 am

    Thanks for the comments, I’ll respond to a few of them.

    The Office test is getting all the attention but it really shouldn’t be. This article has been reported on plenty of sites (like Engadget) as concluding that the Atom 330 is disappointing, but if they actually read it that’s not what we’ve concluded at all – in the tests that matter it’s over 40% quicker.

    @Bill: we used 1GB of RAM so we could compare it to the vast majority of Atom N270 systems we’ve seen. Yes, if you’re building a PC you’ll likely use 2GB and it’ll run fine, but we’re more interested in its potential for the netbook market, and 1GB is the standard there right now.

    @Jeff: We actually have Windows 7 running on an MSI Wind with a single-core Atom, and it’s perfectly usable. I don’t think it’s at all far-fetched to think Windows 7 will become the netbook OS of choice, particularly as the Atom should be even quicker by the end of next year.

     
  17. kryten Says:
    December 15th, 2008 at 10:55 am

    Want a 330 for your netbook – Don’t Wait:
    … because if this website: http://jkkmobile.blogspot.com/2008/09/dual-core-atom-on-netbook.html is to be believed and probably is then us (including myself) who were waiting for a dual-core netbook won’t get one. Apparently Intel won’t sell (or allow) the Atom 330 to be used in netbooks. (They know that battery life will be seriously impacted) which is a real shame. I haven’t seen the road map (yet) for the Atom N330 (the low power dual core) but it could be many months before they release it.

     
  18. Joseph Says:
    January 15th, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    Would the gpu be replacable?

     
  19. Nvidia Ion — самая вероятная платформа для Mac mini и Apple TV | Mac OS World .RU Says:
    January 16th, 2009 at 12:30 am

    [...] В зависимости от приложения выигрыш от 5% до 100%. По другим тестам отрыв немного меньше. Но уже готовы тесты полноценной [...]

     
  20. Apple Sends Wired a Cease-and-Desist Letter for Netbook Video [U] - Mac News Update Says:
    January 16th, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    [...] go on to explain that Apple may use Intel’s Atom processor, which as you can see from some benchmarks done by PC World, is nearly a downgrade from what Apple currently has in the Mac mini. We’ve [...]

     
  21. Autodesk 3ds Max 8 Says:
    January 18th, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    Autodesk 3ds Max 8…

    An interesting post by a bloger made me……

     
  22. I got notes on yall Says:
    January 19th, 2009 at 12:06 am

    I got the Intel D945GCLF2 mobo w/Atom 330 back in november. I put it in an Apex case with 2- 640GB Western Digital Blue SATA’s. Believe the hype about the GPU, it’s caliente.My wife and I use it to surf and compose docs, it also serves as ground base for our mini 9’s(Atom 270). As of late we are all running Windows 7 on all systems with Aero and flip 3D with “very few” problems other than duplicating the drive sharing nightmare from the xp configs. Windows Media Center are crap on both Processors due to my low graphics capabilities. Bottom line- if you’re just surfin the net’ revising the will, or playing online flash based games the 330 is more than adequate. Only tried vista for a little bit on another computer(not Atom) and wasn’t impressed with the perfomance(felt like dog had its heels dug into the dirt and was tugging on my coat-tails

     
  23. Microsoft Office 2003 Professional Edition Says:
    January 21st, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    Microsoft Office 2003 Professional Edition…

    An interesting post by a bloger made me……

     
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    Macromedia Flash Professional 8 Mac…

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  25. The Cool Tech Stuff Blog » » Dual-Core Atom Not Much Faster Than Single-Core Says:
    April 29th, 2009 at 8:58 am

    [...] Dual-core Atom 330 benchmarked [PC Pro] [...]

     
  26. barry Says:
    May 12th, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    what is the speed of the pentium d base system please ? without that info then the knowledge of a base system is meaningless.

     
  27. Dual-Core Atom Not Much Faster Than Single-Core | Reviews Says:
    May 13th, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    [...] Dual-core Atom 330 benchmarked [PC Pro] [...]

     
  28. David Murray Says:
    June 10th, 2009 at 3:16 am

    Possibly the reason it performed worse than its single-core predecessor on some tests might have to do with the hyperthreading. Since the operating system thinks there are 4 CPUs, it may treat them all equally. So lets say you have two big tasks going, well, those two tasks may end up running on the same CPU while the other core sits there doing nothing. According to Intel, your OS should have proper support for hyperthreading to avoid this type of situation. I wonder if the test machine was setup properly.

     
  29. mr blobby Says:
    July 25th, 2009 at 12:13 am

    You dont say what the benchmark is – pentium D but not the cpu speed. is it clock for clock, because if so that doesnt make sense as there is no such thing as a pentium D 1.6ghz … what is the cpu speed of the bench mark cpu ?? thanks

     
  30. HTPC Battle: Acer Aspire X1200 vs ASRock ION 330 Says:
    October 2nd, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    [...] isn’t much software optimized for this and in tests it was found to perform the same if not worst than a single core Atom. Its saving grace is the built in 9400M video card which will handle most of the duties when it [...]

     
  31. Clever Dick Says:
    December 1st, 2009 at 5:08 am

    Getting worried about the spec of the base machine is unnecessary. The fact is that it is better at all the tasks and can therefore be used as a *relative* comparison.

    Since these results have not been given in absolute terms, the use of an unspec machine is neither here nor there. If the base machine had been twice as fast as the one used, both the n270 and 330’s scores would be halved and the percentage difference remain the same.

     
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