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.
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.
"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!