Intel begins shipping new Atom chip for Netbooks

Chipmaker's new Atom N280 processor, which touts better graphics performance, slips out of the gate a bit sooner than expected.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers

Intel's newest Atom processor has slipped out of the starting gate sooner than expected.

Asus 1000HE Eee PC uses the new Atom N280 processor
Asus 1000HE Eee PC uses the new Atom N280 processor. Asus

Though the Atom N280 had been expected later this year, it is now shipping to Intel customers. "Asus is already taking preorders for the 1000HE with the N280," Intel spokesperson Bill Calder said Thursday.

Intel doesn't expect the rollout to be as big as the Atom N270, introduced back in June, but the N280 is expected to appear in a few systems, Calder said.

The N280 brings a minuscule clock frequency improvement to the N270, bumping up the speed to only 1.66GHz from the N270's 1.6GHz.

The most noticeable improvement is delivered by the accompanying chipset--the GN40. Its built-in graphics silicon offers--for the first time on an Intel Netbook platform--1080p HD playback (though there will be no Blu-ray logo). Nvidia's Atom-based Ion platform will offer even better graphics, however.

Intel has also increased the front-side bus--a data path between the processor and other silicon--speed from 533MHz to 667MHz.

The N280 won't necessarily be the fastest Atom, however. The Z540, which is targeted at handheld-size mobile Internet devices, has been around since April and runs at 1.86GHz, a faster clock speed than the N280.

News about N280 was reported earlier here.