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Pine Trail benchmarks disappoint

Dec 18, 2009 — by Jonathan Angel — from the LinuxDevices Archive

While Intel is not expected to launch its new “Pine Trail” Atoms until January, two Mini-ITX motherboards featuring the chipset have already been revealed online by multiple resellers. However, Intel's D410PT and D510MO motherboards could disappoint those who'd hoped the next-generation products would offer breakthroughs in graphics performance and power consumption, suggest benchmarks published by Cartft.com.

According to a variety of reports, Intel's new "Pine Trail" platform will be announced either Jan. 3 or Jan. 10. (The smart money now appears to be on the earlier date, since Cartft.com and Mini-Box.com, two of the resellers offering Pine Trail-based products on their websites, note they will be able to ship items on Jan. 4 and Jan. 5, respectively.)

Pine Trail — first discussed by Intel in a May conference call for investors — brings the Atom's memory controller and graphics core on-die, improving performance and significantly reducing thermal output, according to the company. While the new "Pine View" Atoms provide northbridge functionality, I/O is handled by the relatively simple NM10 ("Tiger Point") southbridge, the chipmaker adds.


Intel's Pine Trail chipset
Source: Intel
(Click to enlarge)

Pine Trail Atoms will include the 1.66GHz N450, which, along with the NM10, will replace the earlier N270 and 945GSE (945GCSE northbridge and 82801GBM southbridge) combo, found in dozens of netbooks and other devices. They'll also include the 1.66GHz Atom D410 and Atom D510, nettop processors with single and dual cores that respectively replace the original Atom 230 and 330.

While these new processors have been an open secret in the industry, intense speculation has revolved around whether Pine Trail would bring improved graphics capabilities, making basic Atom devices capable of playing back HD video at last. One report, from the HKEPC website, claimed Pine Trail would move from Intel's GMA950 IGP (integrated graphics processor) to the chipmaker's somewhat-more-adept GMA500. (The GMA500, based on Imagination Technologies' Powervr SGX535, is already featured in Intel's recently announced Atom SoC, the CE4100, where it's claimed to handle 1080p video streams with ease.)

A more discouraging report came from Fudzilla's Fuad Abazovic, who wrote that the IGP inside the D410 and D510 would be the GMA 3150, a slightly-faster version of Intel's venerable GMA 3100. "Atom graphics are going to continue to suck," he added.

According to specifications newly published by Cartft.com and Mini-Box.com — plus benchmarks provided by the former — Abazovic was pretty much right. As we reveal below, Pine Trail does use the GMA 3150, and graphics performance, while improved, remains nothing to write home about. HD video playback was not addressed in the tests, but may still require add-on hardware such as Nvidia's Ion, a companion chip that includes a GeoForce 9400 graphics processing unit.

Intel's D410PT

Intel's new D410PT is designed to replace the company's D945GCLF, a Mini-ITX motherboard released shortly after the Atom 230 was first released. That board included a single PCI expansion slot, but lacked a slot for add-on PCI Express x16 graphics cards. (As a result, critics charged that Intel was trying to keep Atom-based solutions from cannibalizing sales of its more expensive processors.)

The D410PT pretty much follows in the D945GCLF's footsteps, again including a single PCI slot. According to Cartft.com, the board includes the 1.66GHz Atom D410 and NM10 chipset, with GMA 3150 graphics.


Intel's D410PT

It's said the D410PT (above) supports fanless operation. Other key improvements include memory expansion up to 4GB of DDR2 RAM (via two DIMM slots) and a 24-pin power supply for an ATX power supply, according to the reseller.


The coastline of Intel's D410PT

Cartft.com says the D410PT's coastline (above) includes two PS/2 ports, a VGA output, four USB ports, audio I/O (mic, line, and headphones), and a 10/100 Ethernet port. Internal connectors, meanwhile, are said to include headers for four more USB ports, two serial ports, and two SATA ports. The D945GCLF's IDE port has reportedly been dropped.

Features and specifications listed for Intel's D410PT motherboard by Cartft.com include:

  • Processor — Intel D410 clocked at 1.66GHz
  • Chipset — NM10 southbridge
  • Memory — Up to 4GB of DDR2 RAM via two DIMM slots
  • Storage — 2 x SATA ports
  • Expansion — 32-bit PCI slot
  • Networking — 10/100 Ethernet
  • Other I/O:
    • 1 x VGA
    • 8 x USB 2.0 (4 external, 4 internal)
    • 2 x PS/2
    • 2 x serial (internal)
    • Audio — mic in, line in, headphone out
  • Operating temperature — n/s
  • Dimensions — 6.7 x 6.7 inches (17 x 17cm)

Intel's D510MO

Intel's D510MO, also passively cooled, is designed to replace the company's D945GCLF2, a Mini-ITX board that marked the first appearance of the chipmaker's dual-core Atom 330. Like its predecessor and the D410PT cited above, the D510MO has a 32-bit PCI expansion slot, but it also gets a Mini PCI Express slot, the resellers say.

According to the specifications published by Cartft.com and Mini-Box.com, the D510MO features the 1.66GHz, dual-core Atom D510, again with the NM10 chipset, and accepts 4GB of DDR2 RAM. External connectors are said to be exactly the same as those pictured above for the D410PT, but the Ethernet interface reportedly runs at gigabit speeds, not just 10/100.


Intel's D510MO

Internal connectors are the same as the D410PT's, according to the resellers, except that the D510MO adds a header for a parallel port. Additional connectors cited by Mini-Box.com, though not by Cartft.com, allow for front-panel audio jacks and provide S/PDIF digital output.

Features and specifications listed for Intel's D510MO motherboard by Cartft.com and Mini-Box.com include:

  • Processor — Intel D510 clocked at 1.66GHz
  • Chipset — NM10 southbridge
  • Memory — Up to 4GB of DDR2 RAM via two DIMM slots
  • Storage — 2 x SATA ports
  • Expansion
    • 32-bit PCI slot
    • Mini PCI Express slot
  • Networking — Gigabit Ethernet
  • Other I/O:
    • 1 x VGA
    • 8 x USB 2.0 (4 external, 4 internal)
    • 2 x PS/2
    • 2 x serial (internal)
    • 1 x parallel
    • Audio:
      • mic in, line in, headphone out
      • Also includes S/PDIF and headers for front panel connections, according to Mini-Box.com
  • Operating temperature — n/s
  • Dimensions — 6.7 x 6.7 inches (17 x 17cm)

Benchmarks

In addition to the specifications listed above, Cartft.com published benchmarks for the D510MO and D410PT, comparing them not only to the D945GCLF and D945GCLF2, but also to other motherboards, such as the Jetway NC92-230 (based, as its name implies, on the Atom 230) and both single- and dual-core versions of Zotac's Ion ITX. The latter includes Nvidia's Ion, which supports DirectX 10 and provides 1080p HD video playback, according to the chipmaker.

Three benchmarks were run: 3D Mark and PC Mark 05 from Futuremark Corporation, and Cinebench R10 from Maxon. According to the results reported by Cartft.com, in the 3D Mark test (below left) the new boards moderately outpaced their predecessors.


3D Mark and Cinebench R10 test results
Source: Cartft.com
(Click either image to enlarge)

For example, the D510MO was said to be 27 percent faster than the D945GCLF2. However, it was less than half as fast as the dual-core Ion ITX, according to Cartft.com.

In PC Mark 05, the D510MO came in second place, achieving approximately 81 percent of the speed of the dual-core Ion ITX. Cartft.com adds that in Cinebench R10's rendering test (above right), the D410PT and D510MO actually led the pack, presumably because of their slightly higher clock speeds or faster memory access. When it came to the OpenGL tests, however, none of the systems using all-Intel chipsets could approach the performance of those using Nvidia's Ion, the reseller adds.

OUR VERDICT:
The Pine Trail platform provides improvements all around, but is less revolutionary than was hoped for

Finally, Cartft.com lauded both new Intel boards for their quiet operation — "due to the passive cooling there is basically no noise" — and noted that both systems used under 33 Watts at all times. The latter figure compares favorably to Intel's Atom 330/945GC combo, which has been said to draw between 40 and 45 Watts depending on configuration and load.

The gains offered by Pine Trail, however, pale beside Intel's forthcoming "Moorestown" platform, intended to replace the Z5xx "Silverthorne" Atoms, and claimed to offer an idle power consumption just 1/10th of today's Atoms.

Availability

According to Mini-Box.com, Intel's D510MO will sell for approximately $100, while Cartft.com lists the board for approximately 70 Euros (about $100.21). More information on the board may be found here and here.

Neither reseller listed pricing for the D410PT, but more information on the board may be found on the Mini-Box website, here.

Cartft's benchmark report, which also contains additional photos and product information for both boards, may be found here [PDF link].


This article was originally published on LinuxDevices.com and has been donated to the open source community by QuinStreet Inc. Please visit LinuxToday.com for up-to-date news and articles about Linux and open source.



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