Intel plans to shrink netbooks even further with its latest range of Atom processors, which feature built in graphics as well as a smaller, more energy efficient design.

Previously codenamed Pine Trail, the new Atom processor is primarily designed for use in netbooks and entry-level desktop PCs. It is now officially Intel's smallest chip.

While pricing and availability have yet to be formally announced, the new Atom CPUs are expected to start appearing in PCs from January onwards.

Spec-wise, the Atom sports a single processor core, has 512K-1MB of L2 cache (depending on which version is used) and will clock in at 1.66Ghz.

Intel's high-powered chipsets tend to attract lots of media attention, and the new Atom processor is expected to play a big part in the company's future.

Last year Intel shipped over 40 million units of the previous Atom chip to OEM PC manufacturers, with netbooks outselling Apple's iPhone and the Nintendo Wii. According to ABI Research, Intel Atom shipments are expected to into the hundreds of millions by 2011.

Intel have yet to formally showcase any prototype hardware with the new Atom under its hood, they have hinted that the Atom CPU is likely to be used in several new form factors ranging from ultra-small an slim PCs through to 3G-enabled netbooks.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of the Atom chipsets is the integration of its memory controller and graphics processor onto the actual CPU.

This means that the new Atom is a two chip solution instead of the previous versions three.

Not only does this reduce manufacturing costs, resulting in even more affordable PC designs, but the new Atom will run cooler and use up to 20 percent less power, significantly improving battery life.

Source: New Zealand Herald