The Intel Atom N280 and AMD Athlon Neo MV40 are the two most popular Netbook processors. I emphasise Netbook here because I have seen attempts to sell machines having either of these as laptop and at times even desktop computers! Anyone buying a machine equipped with these processors expecting high level computing power will be disappointed. If you need a laptop buy a real laptop.
NOTE: This article discusses specific processor numbers. It may not apply to newer versions of these processors.
AMD has been lagging behind in the netbook market, where Intels Atom processor has found a strong foothold. The Atom is primarily a single-core processor (some newer variants of the Atom are dual core). It is a redo of the Intel Celeron, but with a serious thought to power consumption. While not as powerful as dual-core processors, it found place in the Netbook market due to its 2 to 4W power consumption and cheap price, making netbooks like the ASUS Eee PC 1000HE and Samsung NC10 last upto 8 hours on a battery.
AMD decided to follow Intels lead and repackaged the Athlon K8 to call it Athlon Neo. The Athlon Neo MV40 is a 64-bit single-core processor running at 1.6GHz. It is rated at 15W, which is higher than the Atom. So don’t expect very long battery life for something that has the Athlon Neo in it. What about 64bits? Well 32 or 64 bit does not add much value in the Netbook market1.
So how does the Athlon Neo compare up with the Atom? Here is a showdown table:
|Attribute||Athlon Neo MV402||Intel Atom N2803 (2009)||Intel Atom N4504 (2010)|
However Athlon Neo chipsets do provide better graphics capability using ATI X1250 or ATI HD3410 graphics and Netbooks with Athlon Neo are able to support Windows Vista and decent video playback. So should you buy the Athlon Neo? Well it depends on what you are looking for. On the plus side, the Athlon Neos better graphics support means Netbooks equipped with it will support HD playback and Windows Vista. So if you are looking for a Netbook mainly for watching movies then the Neo may work better for you. However the Neo and the associated graphics will kill your battery life and in some ways defeat the purpose of having a Netbook. If you want to browse the net in a coffee house, twitter, check email, manage your schedule or organise your digital pictures choose the Atom and forget your charger at home!
Let one thing be clear though, Athlon Neo and Atom equipped computers are still Netbooks designed for light use and they will crumble when multi-tasking and running today's demanding applications, games or when used for advanced photo editing and video encoding. So if you are looking for a portable laptop for serious work, stay away from both the Athlon Neo and the Atom.