Intel’s D510M0 mini-ITX motherboard features the new Atom D510 processor and NM10 Express chipset. With the memory controller and graphics core on the same die, this new Atom platform looks to lower power consumption and possibly deliver better performance.
December 21, 2009 by Lawrence Lee
|Product|| Intel D510M0|
Intel Atom CPU/motherboard
Intel’s Atom processor created a completely new market for small, energy efficient
PCs. They attained the monikers, whether affectionately or derisively, of nettops
and netbooks due to their low level of performance which limited their usefulness
to simple tasks like surfing the internet. While some wrote off these devices
as painfully slow toys, they took off due to their size, price, and the fact
that to many users a computer is mainly a tool for getting online which doesn’t
require much horsepower. Netbooks especially have carved out a healthy market
share for themselves that continues to grow. Now even handset companies like
Nokia are producing 3G-enabled netbooks with telcos subsidizing them so that
they can profit through mobile internet service.
The newest iteration of Atom, code name Pineview, has undergone a transformation
similar to that of Intel’s desktop CPU architecture, with chip designs consolidated
to save space and reduce power draw. The new Atom platform moves the graphics
core as well as the memory controller onto the same die as the processor, leading
to a more efficient two chip solution. As a result, the new NM10 Express chipset
package is only 17 x 17mm, 85% smaller than the previous combination of 945GSE
and ICH7M chipsets.
The processor itself has several new features including Smart Cache, Enhanced
Data Prefetcher and Enhanced Register Access Manager, all of which pertain to
the efficiency of storing and sending out data within the L2 cache. The integrated
graphics has also been upgraded to GMA 3150 which we presume is an updated version
of GMA 3100, though the internet rumor mill suggests it is simply the name they’ve
given to GMA 950 after integrating it on die. In any event neither IGP supports
video hardware acceleration.
The first Pineview processors come in three flavors, the single-core N450 for
netbooks, its desktop counterpart, the D410 and its dual core cousin, the D510,
all running at 1.66GHz with 512KB of L2 cache (per core). We’ll be looking at
the D510 today, part of the Intel D510M0, a mini-ITX motherboard. As it is basically
the successor to the Atom 330 powered D945GCLF2, a comparison between the two
will reveal what effect the new platform has on performance and power consumption.
Technical Specifications: Intel D510M0
|Processor||* Intel Atom D510 (dual-core|
/ 1.66 GHz / 512 KB x 2 L2 Cache)
|Chipset||* Intel NM10 Express|
|I/O Controller||* Two SATA ports (fully|
* Two PS/2 ports
* Two Serial headers
* One Parallel Header
|USB 2.0||* Four external ports|
* Two ports via headers
* One USB for flash card / Solid-State Drive
|Audio Solution||* 6-channel Intel High Definition|
Audio (with multi-streaming)
* Front-panel mic / headphone header
* S/PDIF header
|10/100/1000 Network Connection||* Realtek 10/100/1000 Mb/s|
|Memory Capacity||* Single-channel DDR2 with|
two connectors for 800 / 667 MHz memory support (4 GB max)
|Memory Types||* DDR2 800 / 667 SDRAM memory|
* Non-ECC Memory
|Memory Voltage||* 1.8V|
|Expansion Capabilities||* One PCI connector|
* One PCI Express Mini Card connector
|Board Style||* Mini-ITX / microATX-compatible|
* 170mm x 170mm
|Baseboard Power Requirements||* ATX12V or SFX12V|
Our D510M0 sample came in the form of a pre-production board assembled in a
Morex T3500 case with 1GB of RAM, a slim optical drive, and Seagate Momentus
7200.4 hard drive.
Measurement and Analysis Tools
Our first test procedure is designed to determine the overall system power
consumption at various states (measured using a Seasonic Power Angel). To stress
CPUs we use either Prime95 (large FFTs setting) or CPUBurn depending on which
produces higher system power consumption. To stress the IGP, we use ATITool
or FurMark, an OpenGL benchmarking and stability testing utility.
Our second test procedure is to run the system through a video test suite featuring
a variety of high definition clips. During playback, a CPU usage graph is created
by the Windows Task Manger for analysis to determine the average CPU usage.
High CPU usage is indicative of poor video decoding ability. If the video (and/or
audio) skips or freezes, we conclude the IGP (in conjunction with the processor)
is inadequate to decompress the clip properly. Power consumption during playback
of high definition video is also recorded.
H.264/VC-1 Test Clips
H.264 and VC-1 are codecs commonly used in high definition movie videos on
the web (like Quicktime movie trailers and the like) and also in Blu-ray discs.
To play these clips, we use Cyberlink PowerDVD with hardware acceleration turned
Rush Hour 3 Trailer 2c is a 1080p clip encoded in H.264
inside an Apple Quicktime container.
Coral Reef Adventure Trailer is encoded in VC-1 using the
WMV3 codec commonly recognized by the "WMV-HD" moniker.
x264/MKV Video Test Clips
MKV (Matroska) is a very popular online multimedia container
used for high definition content, usually using x264 (a free, open source
H.264 encoder) for video. The clips were taken from two longer videos
— the most demanding one minute portions were used. To play them
we use Media Player Classic Home Cinema, configured in the most suitable
manner depending on the GPU. For Intel/ATI graphics the player is configured
to use DXVA (DirectX Video Acceleration), for Nvidia graphics we use CoreAVC
to enable CUDA (Compute Unified Device Architecture) support, and for
those that support neither, CoreAVC is used with default settings, which
renders using CPU power alone.
x264 720p: Undead Battle is a 720p x264 clip encoded
x264 1080p: Spaceship is a 1080p x264 clip encoded from
Flash Video Test Clip
Many users watch media online in Adobe’s Flash format on
sites like Hulu and YouTube. Now that the latest 10.1 beta version of
Flash supports GPU acceleration, only slower systems like those powered
by a single core Atom without a proper IGP struggle with Flash in HD.
Our test clip is a HD movie trailer from YouTube played in Firefox.
Flash HD: Iron
System Power Draw
Test Results: System Power (AC)
HFX Micro S13
CPU + GPU
The D510M0 and Morex T3500 combination used a lot less power than the D945GCLF2
residing in the HFX Micro S13,
between 25% and 30% both idle and on load. The T3500’s PSU and DC adapter are
very similar to that of the picoPSU used in the HFX system, and even if their
respective efficiencies are off by a couple of percentage points, the difference
in power draw would still be significant. The D510M0 + T3500 configuration also
edges out the ION based EeeBox EB1501, though it is a much smaller machine that
possibly uses mobile hardware.
The top exterior of the case got warm during testing, as did the large heatsink
on the motherboard. However, it wasn’t hot enough to be a concern — it
past the touch-test with flying colors at least.
Test Results: Video Playback
HFX Micro S13
D510M0 + T3500
Grey boxes indicate test failure.
Without video hardware acceleration, video playback was similar to the Atom
330 and GMA 950 combination found in the D945GCLF2. In any event, most of the
clips in our test suite played fine through CPU power alone, with the exception
of the WMV-HD clip which so far has failed to render properly on any non-ION
Atom system. Smooth x264 playback, even in 1080p, can be achieved using CoreAVC
as a software decoder and 720p Flash video is no problem for the D510. There
was about a 25% improvement in power consumption during video playback compared
to the D945GCLF2.
Test Results: Benchmarks
On our timed benchmarks, the new Atom board only managed to improve upon its
predecessor by 133 seconds total for a 3.4% overall improvement. Incidentally,
the D510, thanks to its higher bus speed, runs at 1.66GHz versus the Atom 330’s
1.60GHz — that’s an increase of about 4%. Unfortunately it doesn’t look
like the changes in architecture have made performance any better, clock per
clock. There might be a bottleneck somewhere in the design that hasn’t been
GMA 3150 did push the D510MO’s 3DMark05 score 40% higher than the D945GCLF2,
but the difference is only significant in relative, not absolute terms. It doesn’t
come close to performing as well as ION, or even Intel’s GMA 4500.
The new Atom D510 performs slightly better than the Atom 330, but this is probably
due to the increase in bus and clock speed more than anything else. Those hoping
for a significant speed bump that would perhaps take Atom closer to the level
of Intel’s CULV chips will be sorely disappointed — it’s pretty much more
of the same. The new GMA 3150 doesn’t seem to support video hardware acceleration,
and though it performs better in 3DMark than GMA 950, when a tortoise races
a snail, there are no winners — certainly not the spectators.
Pineview clearly improves on what made Atom popular in the
first place: Energy efficiency. The D510M0 uses a lot less power than the D945GCLF2
— about 25% on average. Boosting efficiency by that degree when the power draw
is already low is very impressive. If this is the kind of difference
we will see on the mobile platform, it could translate to a sizable bump in
run time, akin to adding a two or three cells to a netbook battery. On the desktop it won’t make a big impact on an electric bill, but the lower power does make it easier to cool. The large passive heatsink on the D510M0 is a welcome change from the small heatsinks with tiny, whiny fans on Intel’s previous
desktop Atom boards.
Like the D945GCLF2, the D510M0 is a solid base for a simple, affordable system, only much quieter and more energy efficient. It isn’t a fundamentally different product; there is nothing it can do that the previous iteration could not. We wish they had integrated an IGP with H.264 acceleration onto the die with the processor. A desktop version of GMA 500, found in their low power mobile Poulsbo chipset which is on various netbooks powered by the Atom Z series would have been perfect. However, we would have been happy if they had simply added HDMI as the D510 can play most high definition videos formats on its own without GPU assistance. That would allow it to function as a half decent media extender and a possible low-cost alternative to the ION. This may still come; our sample is really just a teaser of things to come. No doubt, the new Atom D510 and NM10 Express chipset will spawn a new generation ultra-SFF low power systems.
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Articles of Related Interest
EeeBox EB1501 ION Mini-PC
Lenovo IdeaCentre Q110: Tiny ION Nettop
Lenovo IdeaCentre Q100: World’s Thinnest,
Atom energy efficiency
champ: Intel D945GSEJT w/ Morex T1610 fanless case
Asus Eee PC Seashell 1005HA netbook
HFX Micro S13 system: Atom 330, Silenced
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