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Intel announces Atom brand for Silverthorne, Menlow

Small size means many chips can be produced on a single wafer, lowering cost

Intel’s Silverthorne and Diamondville chips will be called Atom and the company’s Menlow platform for ultramobile computers will be renamed Centrino Atom when these products hit the market, according to a company spokesman.

The creation of the new processor brand sets the stage for the tiny, low-power chips’ upcoming release, and marks the opening salvo in a concerted push by Intel to make ultramobile computers a mainstream product segment.

Several versions of the Atom processor are on track to be delivered to device makers during the first half of this year, according to Danny Cheung, an Intel spokesman in Singapore.

The processors are made using Intel’s 45-nanometer process, and will run at clock speeds up to 1.8GHz. Slower versions will also be available, but Intel isn’t saying what the slowest clock speed will be. Pricing for the chips has yet to be announced.

The chips, which measure less than 25 square millimeters, have a thermal design power (TDP) of between 0.6 watts to 2.5 watts. The number refers to the maximum sustained power that users are likely to see with the chips, not the maximum amount of power the chips can consume.

The small size of the Atom means 2,500 of them can be produced on a single 300-millimeter silicon wafer, allowing Intel to sell them at a low price while maintaining high margins.

While Intel hasn’t announced a specific date for Atom’s release, Mobile Internet devices based on Centrino Atom will hit the market in the beginning of the second quarter, Cheung said.