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Intel D510M0 Motherboard: Atom 2.0

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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.

Intel D510M0

December 21, 2009 by Lawrence Lee

Product Intel D510M0
Intel Atom CPU/motherboard
Manufacturer Intel
MSRP US$75

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.


Atom block diagrams, then and now.

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 dual core Atom D510 and NM10 chipset.

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
shrouded)
* 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
Ethernet Controller
Memory Capacity* Single-channel DDR2 with
two connectors for 800 / 667 MHz memory support (4 GB max)
Memory Types* DDR2 800 / 667 SDRAM memory
support
* 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

PHYSICAL DETAILS

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.


The T3500 based system was shipped with a 12V/5A power adapter. It’s a
very well ventilated case with large grills on the top and sides.


With missing connectors (mainly legacy) on the back panel and the lack
of an I/O shield it was obvious a pre-production sample.


The case has a novel design with a notebook hard drive and slim optical
drive mounting at the bottom as not to interfere with the airflow over
the processor and motherboard.


The D510M0 thankfully lacks the tiny heatsink/fans found on the first
generation Atom desktop boards, opting instead for a single, very large
black heatsink.


Expansion is limited with only 2 SATA ports, and a single PCI slot, but
there is a mini PCI Express slot which is a new addition. The board also
lacks an ATX12V 4-pin connector.

TEST METHODOLOGY

Test Setup:


Our board shipped with a 7200rpm hard drive which we later swapped
for a WD Scorpio Blue 5400rpm drive so it wouldn’t have an unfair performance
advantage over our Atom 330 system which was tested with a Seagate Momentus
5400.6.


CPU-Z screenshot.

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
on, naturally.


1080p | 24fps | ~10mbps
1080p H.264:
Rush Hour 3 Trailer 2c
is a 1080p clip encoded in H.264
inside an Apple Quicktime container.

1080p | 24fps | ~8mbps
WMV-HD:
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.


720p | 24fps | ~11mbps

x264 720p: Undead Battle is a 720p x264 clip encoded
from the Blu-ray version of a major motion picture. It features
a battle with undead warriors.


1080p | 24fps | ~14mbps

x264 1080p: Spaceship is a 1080p x264 clip encoded from
the Blu-ray version of an animated short film. It features a hapless
robot trying to repair a lamp on a spaceship.

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.


1280×544 | 25fps | ~2mbps

Flash HD: Iron
Man Trailer #1
is the first trailer from the feature film
of the same name. It’s a YouTube HD video, though technically
it is not quite 720p.

TEST RESULTS

System Power Draw

Test Results: System Power (AC)
Test State
HFX Micro S13
(D945GCLF2)
Asus EB1501
(ION)
D510M0 +
T3500
Idle
25W
20W
18W
CPU Load
33W
27W
24W
CPU + GPU
Load
39W
39W
29W

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.

Video Playback

Test Results: Video Playback
Test State
HFX Micro S13
(D945GCLF2)
D510M0 + T3500
Avg.
CPU
System Power
Avg. CPU
System Power
Rush Hour
(1080p H.264)
65%
33W
53%
23W
Coral Reef
(WMV-HD)
29%
31W
28%
22W
Undead Battle
(720p x264)
39%
28W
38%
22W
Spaceship
(1080p x264)
47%
30W
42%
22W
Iron Man
(720p Flash)
N/A
51%
22W
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.

Performance

Test Results: Benchmarks
Test
D945GCLF2
D510M0
NOD32
18:26
17:42
WinRAR
11:24
10:55
iTunes
20:19
19:51
TMPGEnc
15:05
14:33
PCMark05
2024
2100
3DMark05
256
359

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
addressed.

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.

FINAL THOUGHTS

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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