The Atom™ family of Intel® Architecture processors continues to expand allowing design engineers flexibility when using the low-power family of products. In the embedded area, the offerings now include the choice of 64-bit processors, dual cores, and higher levels of integration. Lanner Electronics* has taken advantage of the new products to deliver both tiny fan-less computers and network security systems.
The newest members of the Atom family for embedded designs include the N450, D410, and D510. The first two are single-core designs while the latter is the first monolithic dual-core Atom. All of the processors operate from a 1.66-GHz clock.
The new members – especially the D510 -- offer a significant performance advantage relative to earlier Atom options. The new products have a 64-bit architecture and support the Streaming SIMD Extensions. Indeed the processors support SSE2, SSE3, and SSSE3 instructions that can accelerate applications in areas such as imaging and multimedia (see, this prior post for SSE details).
Like the prior Atom processors, the latest additions also support Intel® Hyper-Threading technology (Intel® HT technology). HT allows multiple threads to execute simultaneously on a single core. In the case of Atom, the HT implementation supports two threads per core, so the D510 can execute four threads simultaneously. Designers can use HT in a number of ways. HT will accelerate threaded applications. And you can use the technology to create a virtual environment and run two operating systems, including a real-time operating system on one processor (see example).
The new Atom processors also integrate more features on chip than have prior family members. These latest processors include a graphics processor and a memory controller on chip. Those integrated features should further boost performance.
The expanded feature set does come with a tradeoff in terms of power consumption. Some previous Atom processors had TDP ratings in the 2W range. These latest processors range from 5.5W for the N450 to 13W for the D510. Considering that most systems will need a graphics controller and memory controller in any event, the higher TDP will be a nonfactor when considered at the system level.
While the focus of this post is embedded systems, you might consider some benchmarks run on a D510 in the PC space if you would like to get some performance comparisons. The folks over a Tom's Hardware recently did a comparison on the D510 relative to an earlier Atom processor and to an Intel® Core™-2 Duo processor.
Lanner Electronics has leveraged the capabilities of the D510 both in terms of offering low-power systems and exploiting the advantages afforded by dual cores.
The Lanner LUGE LEC-7100 is a fan-less system based on the D510 that comes packaged in a small rugged enclosure that’s 10.55×1.73×6.85 inches. A mini PCI3 socket will support 3G or Wi-Fi wireless technology. Spencer Chou, Product Planner of Lanner's Embedded Business Group states, "The LEC-7100 is a versatile network-ready computer with all the interfaces needed for a wide variety of end-use applications, and with the new 1.66GHz Intel® Atom™ processor, we’ve developed a powerful solution that improves on all aspects of the fanless design, including performance, stability, power consumption and price.”
Lanner followed the release of the LEC-7100 with a network appliance that can be used on the desktop or rack mounted. The FW-7565 also is D510 based and includes 8 Gigabit Ethernet ports. Lanner designed the system to be a network firewall, although designers can add other network and security applications as well. The system can run Windows or Linux operating systems.
It will be extremely interesting to see what other tasks the dual-core D510 can take on. Have you worked with the Atom family? Have you taken advantage of the HT technology? How can you envision using the dual cores? Please share your experience via a comment with other followers of the Intel® Embedded Community.
Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor)
Intel® Embedded Alliance
*Lanner Electronics is an Associate Member of the Intel® Embedded Alliance