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Intel's Atom not just for Netbooks anymore

Intel's Netbook mainstay is finding a home in desktops.

Intel's mainstay Netbook chip is finding a home in desktops, underscored by recent announcements from Hewlett-Packard and Acer.

HP MediaSmart LX195 uses a 1.6GHz Atom processor
HP MediaSmart LX195 uses a 1.6GHz Atom processor Hewlett-Packard

On Wednesday, details emerged of HP's MediaSmart Server LX195, a home server packing a 1.6GHz Atom 230 processor that's priced at $400 with 1GB of memory and a 640GB hard disk drive. To date, HP has been using Intel Celeron and Advanced Micro Devices' Sempron processors. (Note: update adds Intel Celeron.)

Earlier this month, Acer rolled out the Acer AspireRevo, a small, slick box that augments the Atom with an Nvidia Ion chipset to boost graphics performance. This is expected to be priced well under $300 for some models.

Asus was one of the first to bring out a head-swiveling Atom-based desktop--the Eee Box, which has been updated recently with ATI graphics.

By design, Atom is a more power-frugal and, as a result, a slower processor than Intel's mainstream Core 2 chip architecture. HP, for example, markets its MediaSmart server as a storage hub, which typically doesn't require much processing punch. And Atom is cheap--the Atom 230 is $29, whereas comparative Celeron chips are about $34 but draw much more power. And mainstream Core 2 Duo desktop processors start at about $110.

Intel has long maintained that Atom has a place in so-called Nettops and, last year, brought out the dual-core Atom 330 specifically for this market.

This strategy was validated this week in Taipei, where motherboard maker ASRock was showing a desktop with a dual-core Atom 330 processor and an Nvidia Ion chipset. Asus is also expected to update the Eee Box line with a dual-core Atom processor.