The Evolution of the Microsoft/Intel Netbook: Three generations of mini Windows laptops

Posted in Uncategorized by QuietOC on February 12, 2010

Power Usage

It would be great to have a tiny notebook with great battery life and able to play 3D games. None of these systems can really do that. What they can do is offer decent battery life by being somewhat low power. Low power for x86 is rather relative. The Xscale-based NEC Mobile Pro 900C used at most 4W with its LCD turned to maximum brightness, 3W with the LCD at minimum brightness. Even overclocking the Xscale caused no measurable difference in power consumption.

The average netbook uses a lot more power than the average Handheld PC. The ASUS Eee PC 1000HA with N270 underclocked to 495 MHz uses around 5 W at idle but only with its backlight off and its hard drive and WiFi card physically removed. WiFi is a big power draw on all of these machines. The card in the 1000HA seems to require about 2 W at idle and more when in use. Most people aren’t going to go to such drastic measure to lower the power consumption of the machine. So, how do the two x86 platforms compare in more realistic scenarios?

CPU idle, backlight min, Wifi on, camera on, HD idle

N270  495MHz 9.5W
N270   792MHz 10W
N270  1010MHz 11.5W
SU3500 798MHz 9W

The ability of the SU3500 to reduce to a 4x multiplier at idle helps the CULV system to idle lower than the Atom system. However, the Gateway’s backlight at minimum seems darker than the Eee PC’s backlight at minimum. Still underclocking the N270 doesn’t lower the Eee PC’s power consumption below that of the Gateway. This is definitely a win for the CULV laptop, probably mainly due to a more efficient chipset.

I fired up OCCT on both systems to check their peak CPU power draw.

OCCT, Backlight min, Wifi on, Camera on, HD idle

N270   1596MHz 13W
N270   2008MHz 17W
SU3500 1397MHz 18W

The SU3500 used slightly more power than the overclocked N270. The Core 2 Solo seems to be more efficient. It is also likely the idle voltage of SU3500 could be lowered more, though that might not reduce the power usage much. The CPUs in both systems have lower TDPs than their respectful chipsets, so we fired up ATiTool alongside OCCT to stress both the CPU and the GPU.

Highest Power Draw

OCCT/ATiTool, backlight max, Wifi, camera, defrag

N270   1596MHz 19W
N270   2008MHz 24W
SU3500 1397MHz 30W

The peak power draw of the CULV system definitely exceeded the peak power draw of the overclocked Atom system. I should note that the Gateway power draw from the plug actually decreased when its battery was installed during this test from 29W down to 28W. Doing the same on the Eee PC increased the power draw from the plug to 35W. Acer underspecified the AC adapter power for this system.


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  1. Fire Basket · said, on November 3, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    the best and cheap netbooks are made by Asus or MSI, if you want reliability then the best is Hitachi netbooks “

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