Intel Tries to Keep Netbooks Alive With New Atom Chips

Intel on Wednesday started shipping the latest Atom chips for netbooks, an important step to sustain growth of the low-cost PCs in the wake of the tablet onslaught.

The dual-core chips, part of the platform code-named Cedar Trail, bring better battery life and overall improved performance to netbooks, Intel said in a statement. Top PC makers, including Hewlett-Packard, Acer, Lenovo, Toshiba, Asus and Samsung will ship netbooks with Cedar Trail chips beginning in January starting at US$199.

Intel has doubled graphics performance on the chips while reducing power consumption by up to 20 percent compared to Atom predecessors introduced two years ago, the company said. The new chips will help netbooks provide up to 10 hours of battery life on one charge, Intel said.

Intel introduced the Cedar Trail chips ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Jan. 10-13. Intel is expected to talk about its latest chips for smartphones, tablets and PCs at the trade show.

Cedar Trail chips are an important step in Intel's efforts to improve netbooks, which have been hurt by growing demand for tablets such as Apple's iPad. An Intel spokeswoman said that while device makers can put Cedar Trail chips in tablets, most of the company's customers are opting for Intel's upcoming Medfield or Clover Trail tablet chips for tablets.

Intel is retaining a positive outlook for netbooks, despite the threat from tablets. While netbook shipments have dropped in the U.S. and western Europe, the market is growing in developing countries such as India and China, Intel said.

The new chips allow netbooks to play back high-definitions and support for HDMI (high-definitiion multimedia interface) ports on the chipset will allow netbooks to be hooked up to high-definition TVs. Other features include wireless display technology to beam PC images wirelessly to TVs.

The new chips include Atom N2600, which runs at 1.6GHz and draws 3.5 watts of power, and the N2800, which runs at 1.86GHz and draws 6.5 watts of power. Intel in September introduced Cedar Trail chips for low-cost desktops.

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