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Intel Ships Latest Atom Processor

Besides contributing to HD playback in netbooks, the N280 is slightly faster than its predecessor.

Intel is shipping to computer makers a new Atom processor that delivers better video playback on mini-laptops, the company confirmed Friday.

The N280, the successor to the N270, is coupled with Intel's GN40 chipset, which includes a hardware-based encoder for 720p high-definition video. Besides contributing to HD playback in a mini-laptop, also called a netbook, the N280 is slightly faster than its predecessor.

The new chip has a clock speed of 1.66 GHz, compared with 1.6 GHz for the N270. In addition, the latest Atom has a faster front-side bus that runs at 667 MHz. The FSB is used to connect the processor to system components.

An Intel spokesman confirmed that Intel has been shipping the N280 to computer makers, but declined to release pricing. DigiTimes, however, reports that the processor and chipset is selling in the $60 to $65 range in batches of 1,000.

The N280 and chipset has been released as Nvidia prepares to ship its netbook graphics platform that will run alongside an Atom processor. The GeForce 9400m motherboard chipset, called the Ion platform, would be used in place of Intel's graphics technology.

Nvidia claims its one chipset with Atom delivers 10 times the speed of current Intel-only netbooks. The performance boost means the mini-laptops can run high-definition video on top of Microsoft's Windows Vista or upcoming Windows 7 operating systems, according to Nvidia.

Intel had originally planned to ship the N280 in the second or third quarter of the year, according to DigiTimes. The earlier shipment has led to speculation that Intel moved up the shipping date to get product in market before Nvidia's platform is released around the middle of the year.

The Intel spokesman, however, denied there was a connection. "The GN40 and N280 were planned and scheduled long before Nvidia's big Ion push," he told InformationWeek.

Asustek is the first computer maker to announce a product using the N280. The company said this week that the processor would be in the Eee PC 1000 HE netbook, which will sell for $400. Asustek hasn't said when the system would ship, but is taking preorders. The 1000 HE delivers as much as 9.5 hours of battery life, according to Asustek.

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