Buying A Dual Core Netbook?: Intel Atom N450 vs N550?

Intel's new dual core Atom N550 processor are here and they aims to power the next generation of netbooks! What does it offer and what does this mean for you? If you are like me, you must be tired of going into Best Buy and seeing the same old hyper threaded single core netbooks posing as dual cores. Maybe not. Even if you are not a tech geek like me, you might have played around with netbooks in the store. Your experience, like mine, might have been underwhelming. This disappointment is not uncommon but that's about to change. Intel's new N550 Atom processors is causing lots of buzz. Will this new generation processor supercharge your netbook experience? Well, that depends. 

First, let's look at the purpose of netbooks and why now is a great time to buy one. Netbooks are like mini laptops. You may have seen them at Best Buy or in the electronics section at your local Walmart or Target. They are not as fast as laptops/notebooks but what they lack in size, they make up in portability. Netbooks are tiny. They usually only have a 10" screen and full qwerty keyboard to match. Most laptops have a CD/DVD drive. Netbooks do not.

Asus Eee PC 1015PEM
Asus Eee PC 1015PEM

So Why Buy A Netbook?

They usually cost about $400 and are much slower than laptops. Portability and battery life. Most netbooks weigh under 5 lbs and can be carried without its power cord. Netbooks last a very long time with a full charge. For example, the famous Asus Eee PC line have been claimed to last 9 to 10 hours and many people have had similar experiences. Most laptops can barely last 3 hours without having to be plugged in. With netbooks, it is not uncommon to last 6 plus hours on a charge.

I did my homework on netbooks when they first came out. I was impressed by their battery life but not so much with their performance. This is why I am excited and you should be too. Most first generation netbooks ran on the Atom N450 processors. They are all hyper threaded single cores running at 1.66 GHz. Okay, what does this mean in plain English? This means that this processor is a single core simulating 2 cores. When you hit CTRL + Alt + Del on your netbook and launch task manager, you will see 2 cores on the resources tab. Don't be fooled. It is a single core. The new N550 Atom processors are true dual cores.


Simulated cores? True dual cores? What does this mean? Performance and efficiency. Don't be fooled. The new N550 Atom is clocked at 1.5 GHz. While the older N450 is 1.66 GHz, it is indeed slower than its successor. Why? The new N550 Atom is a true dual core. This translate into a better experience for you and me. When your netbook is running and your cursor displays the "loading" clock, you can now move it without jitters. This happens when you unzip file or open a program. The extra performance means you feel like you have better control over your netbook. I hate the feeling when my computer locks up or "freezes". This is common on single core processors. Multiple cores eliminate this problem. 

Not only is speed a clear improvement, power consumption from the new processor is reduced though you might not notice. Usually, when you buy a computer with a super fast processor, you end up having a shorter battery life due to the increase power. It's kind of like buying a high performance car. It's fast and powerful, but it burns more gas. Another cool benefit from this new N550 Atom is its support for DDR3 memory and Adobe Flash at 720p. The previous N450 supported DDR2. DDR3 will feel a little faster. I have mixed feelings about Flash. Don't get me wrong, 720p sounds great but what's the point if the max resolution from most 10" netbooks is 600p? Some people have reported slightly sluggish performance with HD videos. You won't notice much of a difference if you are watching Youtube videos. You will be fine with 480p streaming.

"To my surprised, this guy actually understood me."

With all these improvements, I am dying to purchase an Asus Eee PC 1015PEM. What's holding me back? Best Buy! Let me tell you a story. I just got home driving to 2 Best Buys, each in different states. None had the new dual core netbooks. At least, not yet. I was in the second Best Buy talking to the sales clerk. Asked the young clerk if they had any new N550 netbooks in stock. To my surprised, this guy actually understood me. Usually, when I am browsing Best Buy, I am confronted by clerks that barely know anything... about anything. Unfortunately, he told me he did not have any of the newer netbooks but promised they will get them soon. I knew these netbooks came out earlier this month and asked him why they didn't have it yet. He explains that they are retail. As as soon as these older N450's are sold, they will get a shipment of N550 dual core netbooks. I tested him and asked him if I sure wait or buy the current netbooks in stock. His advice was to wait a few weeks. I would have waited anyway but it was nice to find a Best Buy clerk looking out for the customer rather than pushing Geek Squad garbage. That was a nice surprise.

Intel's Dual Core Atom N550 Processor
Intel's Dual Core Atom N550 Processor

"Netbooks have gotten better and faster."

As I wait for Best Buy to stock them, you may want to put dual core laptops at the top of your holiday shopping list. Netbooks have gotten better and faster. They will be very popular. Just make sure you get a true dual core and not a hyper threaded single core. Remember N550. If you don't mind having the latest and greatest, the N450 Atom netbooks are still capable. They will likely be heavily discounted in order to make shelf space for the newer generation of netbooks. If my impulses get the best of me, I might just order one online. Thanks for reading!

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Comments 17 comments

nikitha p profile image

nikitha p 6 years ago from India

Wow great hub, thanks for sharing this.

Paul 6 years ago

Hey, great article. I just bought an Acer AOD255 netbook at Costco with the N550 processor, 250GB hard drive and 1GB DDR3 memory for $299. On the down side, I tried upgrading the memory to 2GB but no go - Windows 7 or the processor can't handle it. Regardless, netbook works pretty well, but video can be a bit jittery when I watch TV online. Oh, and keyboard is pretty chintzy too, but you can't beat the price. Comes with decent Costco 90 day return policy, 2 year warranty, and there's no Geek Squad to talk you into a bunch of warranties or accessories you don't need.

Adroit Alien profile image

Adroit Alien 6 years ago Author

Hi Paul. Wow that's a great deal! I've been doing some homework and apparently, all OS have some type of issue with HD videos. It appears netbooks amplify this problem. Either way, I am still happy of my Asus Eee PC 1015PEM. You got a better deal than me. Too bad there is no Costco where I live. Congrats! I wrote an article about my Eee PC and another about netbooks vs laptops vs tablets. Check it out if you can spare a minute! Cheers.

SJKSJK profile image

SJKSJK 6 years ago from delray beach, florida

In my opinion, the only plus for a netbook is that it is small. I would get one just as a toy, but if I need to do some serious processing, I use a regular notebook, and a powerful one.

Adroit Alien profile image

Adroit Alien 6 years ago Author

You may be better off with a Sony PSP. These netbooks don't make good "toys".

Mohamed 6 years ago

Thank you so much! There was a price difference of $60 between N450 and N550 of Acer Aspire One on Amazon. They say both are "dual" and both are D255... I thought the only difference is the larger HD and longer time of the battery. Now I see the difference in the processor. Took me a half an hour before I could finally find your page and understand the whole thing. Thank you so very much!

Adroit Alien profile image

Adroit Alien 6 years ago Author

You're very welcome Mohamed! Don't let the raw numbers fool you. The 1.6 GHz single core is tempting but the N550 1.5 GHz does perform better.

Fly 6 years ago

I have Acer D255 with D550 dual core. Recently have successfully upgraded the RAM. Now the netbook perfectly runs on 1333MHz 2GB. No lags, no error messages. Smoothly - on Home Premium x64. Looking forward to getting 256GB SolidStateDrive. Battery is fantastic on new dual core and twice more RAM. It's worth it!

akemai  5 years ago

lots of tabs on the browser. I wouldn't say it's terrible in terms of workload, but multitasking as it's just mere ram-intensive browsing. Can you verify that with a dual core atom, all of these can be alleviated substantially?

Adroit Alien profile image

Adroit Alien 5 years ago Author

akemai, look up the pcmarks ratings for the n450 compared to the n550. Cinebench R10 rates the N450 at 861 while the N550 scores 1414. 3DMark 06 scores the N450 at 493(avg) and the N550 at 741(avg). Look up pcbenchmarks for more info.

alocsin profile image

alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

Wow, never heard of a dual core netbook. Thanks for the heads up, but I wish I'd known about this before I bought my Toshiba NB505 netbook.

mohammed 5 years ago

which processor is better amd dual core or intel atom n450/550 for netbooks ?? which one should i opt for ?

Adroit Alien profile image

Adroit Alien 5 years ago Author

Intel' N550. The next AMD that tops that is the AMD "Zacate" E-350 "APU".

srinivas pendem 5 years ago

Thanks much Adroit, i was about to buy a netbook, never heard abt n450 & 550. tnx for sharing...

Ana 5 years ago

I appreciated the information you shared. it's really helpful for those that like me are trying to make a good choice...thank you very much!

adi 5 years ago

adroit, i m planning to Sony Vaio VPCYB35AN with AMD Dual-Core E-450 APU (1.65 GHz).

Which is better bro Intel' N550 or AMD Dual-Core E-450 APU (1.65 GHz).

Adroit Alien profile image

Adroit Alien 5 years ago Author

adi, the AMD's E-450 APU is far superior the Atom N550.

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