Next Intel Atom's Biggest Upgrade Is Its Price

Some details have emerged about Intel's Atom N280 processor, the successor to the wildly popular N270 that drove last year's netbook craze. In short, it's not looking like much of an update.

The N280 gets three performance boosts: the speed will inch up from 1.6GHz to 1.66GHz, the front side bus will climb from 533MHz to 667MHz, and the bundled graphics hardware, the Intel GN40, will likely fare better than the old 945GSE in terms of Blu-ray playback and light gaming.

Despite a H2 2009 expected release, which would make the Atom more than a year old, this by all counts incremental upgrade will cost end users $14-$19 dollars more than the current-gen processor, with the chipset. This doesn't sound like much until you consider that the Atom sells for a mere $46, and that some of the netbooks it's bundled with can dip below $300.

A likely reason for planning this refresh is added pressure from Nvidia's Ion graphics unit, which promises huge increases in graphics performance in Atom netbooks over Intel's lethargic offering. [DigitimesThanks, Adam]