January 27, 2010 at 10:24 pm
Intel’s launch of the Pine Trail Atom platform left some people wanting. Whilst the power improvements were clear to see, the speeds were no faster than Intel’s Diamondville processors (N270/N280 Atom). Anandtech has a theory why this was the case.
As we know, Pine Trail is built around a two-chip platform that incorporates the memory controller on-die with the actual processor (along with GMA 3150 graphics). This move produced a big boost in performance for other platforms like the AMD K8 and Intel Nehalem with a big drop in memory latency.
Pine Trail saw no such drop in memory latency, despite the two-chip architecture and integrated DDR2 memory controller. Apparently, when Intel designed Pine Trail, it did not start anew. It uses the same core as Diamondville, which is placed next to the on-die memory controller. However, where it goes wrong, is that this is still connected by a FSB interface, despite being on-die.
Therefore, unlike Nehalem that connects directly to the cache through low latency interconnects, Pine Trail must go through the FSB before it reaches the memory controllers. It’s likely Intel didn’t bother redesigning the whole chip due to a lack of competition, plus it saved the company both time and money.
Let’s just hope AMD or VIA crank up the competition a bit more so that Intel can redesign the chip with a tightly integrated memory controller and one that offers the performance upswing that a lot of people expect. Maybe the advent of ARM-based smartbooks will kick-start Intel into action.