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Intel Launches Dual-Core Atom For Netbooks

Intel on Monday introduced its second dual-core Atom processor, and announced that more than a half dozen computer makers have signed on to ship netbooks with the latest low-power chip.

The 1.5 GHz N550 is built on the Pine Trail Atom platform, introduced last year, and is a higher-performing alternative to the single-core N450 used in many netbooks today. The N550 offers significantly more performance while consuming a similar amount of battery power as the N450, according to Intel.

The chipmaker first introduced the N550 in June, along with a new netbook reference design, codenamed Canoe Lake. The design makes it possible to build netbooks that are a half-inch thick, or about half as thick as those currently available.

Intel says eight computer makers plan to ship N550-based netbooks this year, with some launching models on Monday. The manufacturers include Acer, Asus, Fujitsu, Lenovo, LG, Samsung, MSI and Toshiba.

Until the N550, Intel did not have a dual-core Atom built for netbooks. Intel has offered the dual-core N330, but the chip is mostly used in mini-desktops. Asus is the only computer maker to use the N330 in a netbook, the EeePC 1201N.

When compared to the N450, the latest Atom is more responsive in running games and more power-hungry Adobe Flash technology used as the front-end on some e-commerce sites, such as online hotel booking systems, Intel said. Netbooks with the N550 should also perform better on multimedia sites, such as YouTube and Hulu.

The N550 supports a maximum of 2GB of DDR3 system memory.

Intel says it has shipped 70 million Intel Atom netbook processors since launching the low-power chips in 2008. First released in 2007, netbooks were the fastest growing PC category last year, as people turned to the inexpensive mini-laptops during the recession.

Netbook sales this year will reach 36 million units worldwide, accounting for 5.3% of laptop sales in businesses and 1.8% of consumer notebook sales, according to research firm Techaisle. However, starting next year, netbook sales are expected to decline through 2014, as businesses and consumers turn to lightweight, full-size laptops with prices close to the highest-end netbooks.