Not only does the Intel Atom technology come in different processing speeds, now there are different chipset pairings to choose from too.  Do you know what the difference are between the pairing the Intel Atom Z5xx processor series and US15W System Controller Hub (SCH for short) versus what the pairing of the Atom N270 processor with the 945GSE and ICH7M chipset?  I took a close look at these and here’s what I found.   


For simplicity, I’ll refer to them by their platform names:  The eMenlow platform is the pairing of the Intel Atom Z5xx processor series and the US15W SCH.  The Navy Pier platform is the combination of the Intel Atom N270 processor and the 945GSE plus ICH7M chipset.   


The most immediate difference, of course, is the number of pieces to the platform: 2 parts to eMenlow and 3 parts to Navy Pier.  That relatively simple difference impacts which small form factor foot prints they can fit in.  With the tiny pico-ITX 2.5 inch SBCs (such as Kontron’s pITX-SP) and ultra small COM Express compatible modules (nanoETXexpress-SP is an example), eMenlow is a perfect fit in terms of size.  With three parts to it, Navy Pier needs more space and so fits nicely on ETX modules and 3.5-inch SBCs (Kontron’s ETX-DC and JRexplus-DC are a couple of examples).  If you want to know the absolute millimeter-squared size info, here you go:

eMenlow – 666mm²

Navy Pier - 2174mm² 


Now, looking at power consumption for the two platforms, I spot another big difference.  I don’t know about you. I’m still impressed by the sub-5W TDP of the eMenlow.  Even though the sub-10W TDP of Navy Pier is great, it’s that 5 extra watts that keeps that platform out of some of the very power consumption sensitive mobile applications. 


The last area of difference I want to touch on is the actual feature sets supported by each of these platforms.  This is one area where I must say that Navy Pier out shines eMenlow.  Navy Pier offers a rich set of the classic I/O that we’ve been so use to having in X86 platforms.  Also its 3D graphics capabilities are better than those of eMenlow.  That’s not to say that eMenlow falls short in the supported features category.  I’m just saying that if you’re looking for an x86 platform to migrate to following the Pentium M and 855 platform, looking to a SFF product with Navy Pier is a wise choice.   To boil all this down into a nice little summary, here’s a rule of thumb you can follow. 


Choose eMenlow when you need:

  • Power Efficiency – Best performance / watt
  • Fanless operation
  • Video acceleration supporting MPEG2/4/260
  • Optimized feature set for ultra small portable appliances
  • USB Client supported


Choose Navy Pier when you need:

  • Best performance / dollar ratio
  • Integrated support for a rich classic I/O set
  • 3D graphics capabilities better than eMenlow


So, I’ve fleshed out some key differences between these two Intel Atom technology platforms.  What do you think?  What are some of the key factors you’re considering when choosing the Atom platform for your application?