Intel Atom for netbooks costs 52% more than desktop version

The popular Intel Atom microprocessors made for netbooks, or mini-laptops, costs 52 percent more per chip than the desktop version of the same processor.

The Atom N270, the mini-laptop version of the microprocessor, costs $44, compared to $29 for the Atom 230, the desktop, or nettop version of the chip, according to Intel’s latest price list.

Atom is Intel’s smallest and lowest-power microprocessor, designed for a new category of computing devices that are low-cost and always connected to the Internet. The chips have found a home inside a number of devices, mainly the popular mini-laptop, or netbook segment of the market, which includes Asustek Computer’s popular Eee PC, Micro-Star International’s (MSI) Wind mini-notebook, Acer’s Aspire one and Giga-byte Technology’s M912.

Netbooks have become popular because they’re small and light, usually less than a kilogram (2.2 pounds), making them easy to carry around. They’re also inexpensive, with most price tags under $500, and many of the newer ones can run for seven or eight hours if they have a 6-cell battery.

The difference between the laptop Atom processor and the desktop version, Atom 230, is heat. There is commonly more space inside a desktop PC to allow heat to dissipate, or for more cooling systems such as fans and heat sinks, so the 230 can be made using less expensive material. For example, the 230 requires less expensive packaging than the N270.

A few companies have made desktop PCs using the Atom, including a desktop version of the Wind by MSI that runs full speed at only 35 watts of power, compared to 250 watts for a traditional PC. Asustek has also built the desktop Eee Box with an Atom microprocessor.

The chip has proven wildly popular.

During Intel’s second quarter investor’s conference last week, Intel executives said it has been a strong seller that the company has had to revise up its production estimates every 40 days. Demand for the chips have not just been in netbooks, they said, but also in embedded devices and consumer electronics.

The closest rival to Atom on the market today is from Via Technologies. Hewlett-Packard’s Mini-Note netbook uses a 1.2GHz Via C-7M microprocessor. The Taiwanese company revealed its latest Isaiah processors for low-cost laptops last month.

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