Did Intel pull a fast one with the A1xx processors?

17 Comments

Intel had a hard act to follow with the popularity and functionality of the Pentium M series processors.  These were the first mobile processors and chipsets that were optimized for mobile devices and since they were so effective they are the benchmark against which all future mobile processors will be judged.  That’s not a good thing for Intel as devices have starting appearing using the current A1xx processors.  There are currently two flavors of the A-series that run at 600 MHz and 800 MHz.  You would think that using slower processors would be a boon to battery life but I am the first to admit I am disappointed in the performance of these new processors.  Every single review, every single person I’ve talked to, every single video I have seen of a device that uses one of these new processors indicates performance that is a step back in time to the older Celeron processors.  I haven’t seen a single device, especially those running Vista, that has acceptable performance.  This wouldn’t be a totally bad thing if the gain was long battery life but I’m not seeing that either.  Most of the devices available today with these new processors claim roughly the same battery life that similar devices using the older Pentium M processors provide.  So what’s the point with the new processors?  I’m hoping someone can enlighten me, I admit I am no expert where microprocessors are concerned, but I do know mobile devices and I just don’t get it.

17 Comments

WLS

Interesting! I agree. McCaslin was more about producing a low cost UMPC solution so the old Pentium M based chips could be retired and to have an alternative to the Via 7. Performance was never the driving factor. I see it now as a temporary solution for Intel while they complete their Menlow design. They have said that will be ready now by the end of the year. I think the prudent thing would to be to wait at this point in time untill the Menlow based products become known. I have generaly been unimpressed by what I have seen so far- A 12″ Core2 laptop is still a better solution in my opinion. I’m hoping Menlow will change that.Interesting! I agree. McCaslin was more about producing a low cost UMPC solution so the old Pentium M based chips could be retired and to have an alternative to the Via 7. Performance was never the driving factor. I see it now as a temporary solution for Intel while they complete their Menlow design. They have said that will be ready now by the end of the year. I think the prudent thing would to be to wait at this point in time until the Menlow based products become known. I have generally been unimpressed by what I have seen so far- A 12″ Core2 laptop is still a better solution in my opinion. I’m hoping Menlow will change that.

Ctitanic

Well I don’t see anything clever. I checked with an online store and they said to me that the Q1U was far from being a best seller. And talking about best seller. Do you want to know what UMPC according to them has been the best seller since the beginning… the R2H. And they say that the Pentium M model with Vista still sell better than the Q1U.

Scoobie

Disappointing yes but a clever move nevertheless.

I think the Fujitsu will sell very well at $999 compared to the oqo and sony ux

Mike Cane

Celeron? I think they’re worse than Celeron.

Hmmmm… the anti-Shift comments here are making me jittery.

Nick

From what I understand, the VIA processors use less cache than the A1xx, which in turn uses less cache than the Pentium M.

Cache can make applications perform faster, especially when data is required, however the downside is more space is used on the CPU and more power is consumed. The Pentium M resorted to trickery to decrease the cache power consumption, and the A1xx appears to go a simpler route by just using less cache memory on the CPU.

From past experience, a CPU with a faster clock speed can only outrun a slower CPU that has more cache for a small amount of time. Once the workload increases, it balances out.

Why the A1xx then? I’m guessing it’s much cheaper than the Pentium M, while offering similar power and performance (cache and trickery cost money). This could be why the Fujitsu u810 (aka u1010) can sell for $999 US, while Pentium M based UMPCs sell for $1500-$2000. I could be wrong, but that’s my take.

Ctitanic

Mark, do not worry, only you and me know what precious we have. :D Flies like the wind! Even with Vista. :D

devwild

I wish people would stop judging hibernation speed based on Hugo’s shift video. Something was amiss there… it doesn’t matter the cpu speed, windows simply doesn’t take that long to come out of hibernation under normal circumstances.

Mark Polino

My Q1 was offended by the comparison to the Celeron chips. It runs just fine on a Celeron 900mhz, even with Vista, and returns from hibernation dramatically better than what I saw in Hugo’s HTC shift video.

I have to agree that the new processors are a step backward. I was technolusting for a Shift. Now I’m not so sure.

Mark

Slaven

Well, in Intel’s defense (gotta stick up for the little guys!) A1xx may be a lot better on energy use but that might have just given device manufacturers a reason to shrink the battery capacity even more to make their devices even smaller and still hit that 3-hour accepted minimum runtime.

devwild

I have a feeling that the release of this platform was more about the need for a dedicated UMPC architecture in Intel’s arsenal than it was about performance or battery life. Existing UMPCs parted in existing old CPUs and chipsets that were due to be discontinued. To provide a more dedicated platform quickly to compete with those of VIA and AMD, it makes sense to rebrand the already successful Pentium/Celeron M line and sell them at certified speeds that can produce extremely high yeilds. At 800/600 mhz they are likely using nearly all of the wafers. This has side benefits of some additional battery life, lower heat dissipation at these speeds, and lower unit cost, all of which gets the appropriate marketing spin.

Now, UMPC makers have migrated to this platform for better or for worse, because they have no choice, as it is the only supported solution until the next generation.

Whether or not this is due to the intel money machine, continued trepidation about diving all-in to the UMPC market, or just Intel’s ambitious R&D team out pacing practical production cycles, I don’t know.

JKK

cpus are ok… I’m using the 600mhz versdion right now..
..vista, vista, vista…..

Patrick

Yeah – the combo of slow processor and Vista id prob not the best…its the only thing turning me off the Shift, which is otherwise a dream device (I forget the other handheld computer that had 2 processors and win mo and full fat windows…) Its prob why the Everun (500-600Mhz AMD processor) still ships with XP. I honestly wouldn’t buy a UMPC that’s running vista right now, until the specs get better.

Ctitanic

The battery life is better, in the old Pentium M the maximum you could have got was around 2.5, with the A110 I have seen reports about more than 3 hours. But as you can see, we are talking about 30 to 45 minutes more of battery life.

But there are many factors than need to be analyzed. For example, the 945 Graphic Chipset is not really a lot better than the 915. But you it’s running at 1024×600 while the old devices using the 915 were using 800×480. So what ever that chipset added in performance to the new generation is gone because of this higher resolution. So from the point of view of graphics both generation are almost at the same level. Taking this in consideration what’s left? Pure processor power and in this case both processors have a common architecture and you have the A110 running at 200 MHz less than the Pentium M used in the old generation. So… there is nothing weird in getting around 20 to 15 % less performance.

In my opinion, Intel did a good job making a processor that could mimic current VIA processors in the market. That was the goal. To have a processor that could give the same battery life bring about the same performance than current C7 from VIA. And they did a good job on that. You have to look around and read the news of about 6 months ago. You have news about HTC putting a VIA processor in the Shift, you had news about the OQO 02 using a VIA processor, you had news about the Mediom UMPC using a VIA processor so under that pressure the only logical and fast move was to take a Pentium M and modified a little bit decreasing performance up to the same level than those VIAs and getting the same battery life. Keep in mind that there were to big complains from the press about the 1st Generation: Battery Life and the absence of Keyboards. So this Second generation tried to address both “issues”.

That’s my opinion.

Aaron

Maybe the problem isn’t the processors, but Vista instead.

Vista just doesn’t perform as well as XP yet. After a few service packs maybe that will change, but right now, even my lenovo X61 isn’t as fast as my older laptop running XP/Ubuntu, and the X61 has 2 times the specs.

Michael Venini

I’m really starting to agree with this. Many Q1U owners still have to buy the extended battery to get a use out of the unit.

Comments are closed.