The Intel Atom processor really helped the netbook market reach the mainstream, because it allowed the netbooks to offer a reasonable level of performance while maintaining pretty good battery life. The first generation of Atom processors were pretty good, but Intel has been working hard to improve the line.
The current N270 clocks in a 1.6GHz and the N280 helps by providing a better FSB, but the next generation could be even better. How so? We hear that Intel is prepared to introduce a new 2.0GHz Intel Atom processor as early as next month.
Departing from the N-Series Atom processors for just a moment, we learn of the 2.0GHz Z550. This follows in the pre-existing Z500 series of CPUs, which cater to the UMPC and MID end of the market. With the Z550, you get 2.0GHz of juice, 2.4 watts of power consumption, 512KB of level-2 cache, and a 533MHz frontside bus. This is similar in many ways to the 1.86GHz Z540.
Seeing how Intel is able to hit the 2.0GHz range with the Z-Series of Atom, it probably won’t be long before they push this (and probably dual-core architecture) to the N-series for netbooks as well. Can you imagine an Atom-powered smartphone too? That could be quite amazing.