Why Atom sucks

Discussion in 'CPUs and Overclocking' started by Arachnotronic, Jan 5, 2013.

  1. Arachnotronic

    Arachnotronic Diamond Member

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    People like to blame X86 for why Atom sucks compared to newer, more modern micro-architectures, but the plain and simple truth is: the underlying design is a kind of a mess and likely due to the fact that it was limited by the constraints of the 45nm process on which it was designed. I dug up this really helpful CPU optimization guide (http://www.agner.org/optimize/microarchitecture.pdf renowned programmer/optimizer Agner Fog, in which he does a really nice job summarizing why Atom is such a POS:

    - In-order execution is a bottleneck
    - The instruction fetch rate is really low (and you thought Bulldozer's shared fetch was a bad idea!)
    - Memory access is limited to one read or one write per clock (can't do both)
    - Maximum throughput of 2 instructions/cycle is only realistic if the code is specially optimized for Atom
    - Memory latency is HUGE for floating point instructions compared to integer once since the memory unit is only connected to the integer cluster (ever wonder why Atom gets thrashed in the FPU part of Geekbench?)

    The good news is that "Silvermont", with a much bigger transistor budget (thanks, 22nm!), probably fixes a lot of these bottlenecks that were introduced courtesy of the 45nm node. But the bad news is that today's Atom still sucks :p
     
  2. itsmydamnation

    itsmydamnation Golden Member

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    a lot of those are for reduced power as well. There is always a trade off between how fast you do work and how much power you use to do work. This equation is very fluid and changes between nodes/process/etc.

    As a betting man im going to bet that silvermounts OOOE wont be as flexible as jaguar and thats purely based on Target power consumption, you will likely see lots of little trade offs like this in a direct comparison between silvermount and jaguar.

    That said i dont think silvermount will get very far in its target market and that has nothing to do with how it will perform. what intel is selling is trending in the opposite direction to what the phone/tablet makers are heading in. Traditional PC OEM's will likely be much happier with the intel ATOM model so i would look for tablets from them.
     
    #2 itsmydamnation, Jan 5, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2013
  3. Arachnotronic

    Arachnotronic Diamond Member

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    Problem is, when 32nm rolled around, Intel didn't bother doing a "tock". If it had done so, it would probably be much more easily fighting the ARM guys with the "Medfield" SoC. Actually, given how close the current Atom comes, it would probably have clear CPU leadership.
     
    #3 Arachnotronic, Jan 5, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2013
  4. itsmydamnation

    itsmydamnation Golden Member

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    I dont really think so, the problem for intel is consumers dont care about CPU performance. How many people upgraded a 3GS to a 4 to 4s to a 5 because of CPU? I know none.

    The next problem for them is sure they might have been able to make a more power efficient core but on G3/LTE carrier network design is the single largest factor determining standby life time. Poor cellular design and it doesn't matter how good your power saving features are your going to get sub 10 hours standby.

    if intel want to be successful they will have to go to a level of openness with the phone manufactures that they never have come close to, they need to out ARM, ARM. Phone manufactures want to be in control of there component chains and products.
     
    #4 itsmydamnation, Jan 5, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2013
  5. meloz

    meloz Senior member

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    I think what bothers people is not that Atom "sucked" when it was launched (it was tolerable / adequate for intended purposes back then), but that Intel immediately went into lazy profiteering mode and refused to upgrade Atom in a Tick-Tock manner as they do with their mainstream x86-64 parts. They treated it terribly in a step-child manner, so much potential has been wasted.

    So here we are in year 2013, and Atom still sucks. Ugh. When in reality it could have been the primary choice for all non-Apple tablets and smartphones, if only Intel incrementally improved it every year.

    I think the failure (laziness) with Atom, and Intel's dithering on producing a decent in-house SSD controller are two huge lowpoints of Otellini's reign as Intel's CEO. He got lucky to lead Intel in this era. People will point to record profits and marketshare, but my point is that they could have made even bigger profits while still delighting enthusiasts had they nurtured Atom properly.

    Oh well. Now we all await Silvermont, although frankly to me it feels Airmont 2014 is when the 'party' proper will start. Silvermont is more like an attempt to put a derailed train back on track. Then comes the Tick-Tock.
     
  6. Arachnotronic

    Arachnotronic Diamond Member

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    Hey, at least when Intel finally did do an in-house SSD controller, it rocked!

    Let's hope for that out of Silvermont :)

    Although really...they did mess up pretty hard by just not putting in the resources to develop it.
     
    #6 Arachnotronic, Jan 5, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2013
  7. Arkaign

    Arkaign Lifer

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    Wow, epic lurker victory!

    Less than 100 posts in 4 years, but this is absolutely spot-on.

    Hopefully Intel is well into the process of fixing exactly the problems you're spotlighting.
     
  8. beginner99

    beginner99 Platinum Member

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    I don't know but this POS still manages not to clearly lose the the newest and greatest A15 in terms of performance/watt.

    As meloz said the crappy part is that Intel didn't evolve it in tick-tock fashion because then the A15 would now probably look pretty pathetic in comparison. I don't get the ARM hype if such and outdated uArch (Atom) on an older process is still competitive.

    The only problem I see for Intel is price and platform (OS).
     
  9. zebrax2

    zebrax2 Senior member

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    I fully agree with this statement. While it may be true that iPhone users doesn't really upgrade because of the upgrade in CPU performance the same can't be said with android where the fight for dominance lies on being the best
     
  10. Lonyo

    Lonyo Lifer

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    Why Atom sucks:
    It's a 5 year old architecture that's never been updated, and even 5 years ago it was very basic due to maximising power efficiency instead of performance.

    That's why it sucks. 5 years of no progress.
     
  11. Haserath

    Haserath Senior member

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    Not power efficiency. They tried to maximize profit with a tiny die and really choked it too much.

    Atom sucked at everything. AMD at least scored on that one a bit, though they could've probably done better.
     
  12. tweakboy

    tweakboy Diamond Member

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    Let us just ban it from our to buy list.

    Aren't these atoms what runs Windows 8 phone or something....
     
  13. ShintaiDK

    ShintaiDK Lifer

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    Ironicly enough, AMD basicly did the exact same thing and forgot to shrink Brazos to 28nm. And both of them wil update their respective uarchs in 2013.
     
  14. NTMBK

    NTMBK Diamond Member

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    The Brazos shrink was on the roadmap, but apparently got canned due to 28nm low-power process being late. They would have had to launch it later than planned, and give it only a narrow window of opportunity before they launched Jaguar- unless they pushed Jaguar back, which would have been a bad move.

    It'll be interesting to see what happens. Atom on 22nm will have ~4x the transistor budget of the original Atom on 45nm, and I refuse to believe that Intel won't make the most of it. I'm expecting a big leap.
     
  15. Torn Mind

    Torn Mind Platinum Member

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    Just how large were the margins being made on an Atom compared to a budget Core architecture CPUs? I think Intel let Atom rot because they didn't want it eating into i3s, Pentiums, and Celeron chips. They still made a major miscalculation in projecting the ubiquity of small, mobile computers now though.
     
  16. jolancer

    jolancer Senior member

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    everything said sounds true. however im on an Atom and it doesnt suck ;)

    agree with last poster, if this was any faster with this kind of power efficency it would make a lota other things obsolete. Im all about efficency so it works well for me.
     
  17. ShintaiDK

    ShintaiDK Lifer

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    Margins on Atoms is on the level as Celerons and Pentiums. Atoms being cheaper to produce gives it the win.

    The whole margin thing is just a myth. The point is that Atoms serves a purpose(power consumption) thats still unreachable for Core.
     
    #17 ShintaiDK, Jan 5, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2013
  18. HeXen

    HeXen Diamond Member

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    I had an Atom on an MSI Wind netbook and it ran just fine. I played most every console emulator with ease, Titans Quest ran great, no problems with the Windows apps i used on it.
     
  19. happysmiles

    happysmiles Senior member

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    THERE
    IS
    A
    MAJOR
    ATOM
    UPDATE
    COMING
    THIS
    YEAR

    complaining about a 4+ year old design seriously.
     
  20. jpiniero

    jpiniero Diamond Member

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    I seriously doubt that. If that was the case, they would have pushed Atom more instead of letting it rot.
     
  21. Lonyo

    Lonyo Lifer

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    Margins are %, even if the margin is the same, it doesn't mean the actual contribution is.
    Sell 50 Celerons at $50 with 50% margin, you have $25*50 = $1250
    Sell 50 Atoms at $40 with 50% margin, you have $20*50 = $1000

    Why push the cheaper product even if it has the same margins?
     
  22. ShintaiDK

    ShintaiDK Lifer

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    The doubt can be cleared by taking a cruise on ark.intel.com.

    You cant really push Atom harder if the segment aint there. Atom first slowly started the smartphone venture (And we all know the 4-5 years development cycle.). Besides that it only served a purpose in NAS and Netbooks to put it shortly. And people decided they wanted laptops instead of netbooks, despite the longer batterylife in netbooks. Tablets actually suffers the same situation as netbooks. So the endgame will be both laptops and smartphones. Atom can only apply for one of those.
     
    #22 ShintaiDK, Jan 5, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2013
  23. ShintaiDK

    ShintaiDK Lifer

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    Most atoms aint cheaper than celerons at all. Some are even more expensive than pentiums. However they serve a completely different power consumption segment.
     
  24. jpiniero

    jpiniero Diamond Member

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    Oh tablets will be around, people love the form factor. There does seem to be a trend for smartphones to get bigger to the point where having a phone and a tablet might not make sense however.
     
  25. Arachnotronic

    Arachnotronic Diamond Member

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    Keep in mind that Intel does not want to lose the micro-server space to any ARM player. At the launch of the Atom S1200, Diane Bryant (who runs that server group) said,

    "We will not hold back the performance of any of our product lines"
     
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