Intel Dual-Core Atom Processor Now Shipping

The latest Intel Atom processor, known as the Intel Atom Processor 330, is the first dual-core processor that Intel is shipping for low-cost PCs. While most of the other Intel Atom processors have been designed for low-cost notebooks, this dual-core Intel Atom processor is meant for inexpensive desktops or what Intel calls nettops.

Intel is now officially shipping its first dual-core Atom processor for low-cost desktops or what the chip maker calls "nettops."

The Intel Atom Processors 330, which is the first in Intel's Atom line to sport two processing cores, officially went on sale Sept. 21. The cost, according to Intel's Web site, is $43 when the chip is bought in quantities of 1,000.

The release of a dual-core Atom processor for desktops is the latest move by Intel to help create a whole new market of low-cost PCs that will not only help drive sales in developing economies such as China and India, but also will allow Intel and its PC partners to offer a line of inexpensive desktops and notebooks for buyers in the United States and Western Europe who are looking for a second or third computer for the home.

While it's difficult to determine how much of an impact these low-cost netbooks and nettops will have on the worldwide PC market, IDC revised its worldwide PC shipment numbers Sept. 10 to account for the increasingly popularity of low-cost notebooks in both developing economies as well as mature markets.

To date, most of the attention has focused on laptops, such as Asus Eee PC, the Lenovo IdeaPad S10 and the Dell Inspiron Mini 9. However, Intel seems determined to round out its Atom offerings with specific processors for desktops. Intel has not specified if it has plans to deliver a dual-core processor for netbooks just yet.

Intel first detailed the Atom 330 at its Developer Forum in August.

In addition to two processing cores, the Intel Atom 330 offers a clock speed of 1.6GHz along with 1MB of Level 2 cache-the original Atom chips have only 512KB of L2 cache-and a 533MHz front-side bus. As with the other Atom processor, the 330 chip is built on Intel's 45-nanometer manufacturing process.

The Intel Atom 330 has a thermal envelop of 8 watts, which means the chip will run hotter than some of the other Intel Atom processors for PCs, which had thermal envelopes as low as 2.5 watts. The Atom 330 will also support DDR2 (double data rate 2) 667 memory.

In addition, the Atom processor will work with the Intel 945GC Express chip set, which offers a built-in Graphics Media Accelerator 950 and support for high-definition audio. At IDF, Intel also disclosed that the Atom 330 will ship with the D945GCLF2 mini-ITX board that offers gigabit Ethernet, S-video, six-channel audio, eight USB ports and PCI expansion. (A picture of the board can be seen here.)

Although Intel released the Atom 330 this week, it did not revise the prices of its other Atom processors called the Atom 230, $29 per 1,000 unit shipments; and the N270, $44 per 1,000 unit shipments.