Intel Atoms become a two-core family

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The multicore processor revolution has reached the netbook world, with Intel's release of a dual-core 1.5GHz Atom chip.

Lenovo appears to have been the first to jump in with an Atom N550 announcement for its IdeaPad S10-3 netbook but Asus, Fujitsu, LG, Samsung and Toshiba have been quick to follow.

The processor will be able to run applications faster and playback 720p video in netbooks as thin and light as previous models.

The downside with single core netbooks had been the lacklustre performance, overshadowed by multicore notebooks. The N550 still will not equal a notebook, but will look a lot better.

Eyes will not just be on the netbook market. They'll also be firmly focused on the threatened deluge of slate and convertible touch screen tablets. These could benefit massively from a faster, dual-core architecture.

Windows 7 may be set to gain the most from the extra horsepower as it is a heavier duty operating system than its competitors. The dual processing and wider application support of the N550 could offer future pen-based tablets an edge. It all depends on what the competition manages to do with the added capability.

Apart from its speed and low power consumption, the chip also supports DDR3 memory. Like the most recent Pine Trail Atom chips, this will provide a higher level of responsiveness and allow compatibility with a wider range of applications.

The Atom range has proved to be a profitable move for Intel with about 70 million chips produced since 2008.