Intel will officially release the latest Atom N470 processor, which should bring faster performance and longer battery life to netbooks, a source familiar with Intel's plans said.
Atom chips go into small, low-cost laptops called netbooks that are designed to surf the Web and run productivity applications. The N470 chip processor will run at a speed of 1.83GHz, making it Intel's fastest chip for netbooks to date.
The new processor is based on a new second-generation Atom chip architecture that Intel released in December. Intel at the time announced the first chip belonging to the architecture, the Atom N450 processor, which runs at a speed of 1.66GHz. The processor can be found in netbooks priced between $299 and $499.
Systems based on N470 could start shipping as early as next week, the source said. Some PC makers displayed netbooks with the N470 processor at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year in Las Vegas, but no systems have officially shipped yet.
Intel officials declined to comment on the product.
The architecture integrates a graphics processor and memory controller inside the Atom chip, which allows for faster system and graphics performance than its predecessor. Intel has claimed that the integrated graphics processor could smoothly play back 720p high-definition video.
The new Atom chips are also more power-efficient, which could extend the battery life in some netbooks. Some netbooks have shown battery life of more than 10 hours. The integration also makes the chip smaller, which allows PC makers to build smaller and lighter netbooks.
Intel also offers the Atom D410 and D510 processors for low-cost desktops.
More improvements for Atom netbooks are on tap, including a graphics boost in early March when Nvidia launches the Ion 2 graphics platform. The platform couples an Atom processor with an Nvidia graphics processor to bring full high-definition video to netbooks. Acer has already announced a netbook, the Aspire One 532G, with the Ion 2 platform.