Intel Atom N2600 / GMA 3600 Review & Benchmarks

Intel Atom N2600

The Intel Atom N2600 CPU with built-in GMA 3600 graphics belongs to this year’s Cedar Trail family of processors for netbooks. These latest netbook chips bring several new features and improvements over the previous Pine Trail generation. The new features include hardware-based decoding of 1080p videos, HDMI, and USB 3.0 version support, while enhancements are transition to the more efficient 32nm production process from 45nm, delivering longer battery life, less heat, and better performance.

The clock speed of the CPU cores on the N2600 is 1.6GHz and core count is 2. Hyper-Threading technology enables a total of 4 computing threads. The 64-bit CPU has 1MB of L2 cache, and power consumption of the processor is 3.5W. The on-die integrated Intel GMA 3600 graphics is clocked at 400MHz, up from 200MHz in the previous GMA 3150 series.

We will see how good the Atom N2600 in terms of performance is in this review. I have used the recently reviewed 10.1″ Acer Aspire One AOD270 with 2GB of RAM, a 320GB 5,400rpm hard drive, and Windows 7 Starter.

Other available netbooks with the N2600 currently are the Asus Eee PC 1025C, X101CH and 1011CX, HP Mini 210-4000 and Mini 1104, as well as the MSI Wind U180.

Intel Atom N2600 CPU Performance

In real life use for productivity and web browsing purposes, the N2600 doesn’t bring any noticeable improvement over the old Atom N570, like the chart below shows. The Cedar Trail chip has a minor lead over the N570 and is slightly slower than the AMD E-450, but has a clear lead over the AMD C-60, used in many 10-inch netbooks. The budget Intel CPUs for full-size laptops – the Celeron B800 and Pentium B950 – are much faster and that difference is noticeable in everyday use.

Intel Atom N2600 Benchmark Results - PassMark
PassMark CPU Performance

You can find other CPU benchmark results in the gallery at the end of this review.

Intel GMA 3600 Gaming Benchmarks

When it comes to gaming performance, I can describe improvement of the Intel Atom netbook graphics from unusable on the Atom N570 / GMA 3150 and other older parts to barely usable on the N2600 / GMA 3600. You can see in the video below that you can run for example Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare or F.E.A.R. 2 on the lowest possible settings and the lowest resolution of 640×480 with frame rates around 10 fps. During the tests, I’ve experienced screen flickering in F.E.A.R. 2 and Half Life 2: Lost Coast, which I also benchmarked. Another weird thing was bad Half Life 2 performance, with only about 10fps frame rates delivered. I’ve expected this older game to perform better, because it’s not so demanding, but there were obviously some driver or other issues which caused low frame rates. In addition, due to lack of support for DirectX above version 9, I wasn’t able to run DX10/DX11 game Just Cause 2 and 3D Mark Vantage benchmark.

Anyway, PassMark 3D graphics benchmark shows the GMA 3600 is faster than the GMA 3150, but much slower than AMD’s Fusion E-series integrated graphics or Intel HD IGPs on the Celeron and Pentium.

Intel GMA 3600 Benchmark Results - PassMark
PassMark GPU Benchmark

1080p Video Test

Full HD 1080p video playback is an area where the N2600 shines. After the first benchmarks which appeared a couple of months ago, there were negative reports about the CPU not being able to hardware-decode 1080p Youtube videos, due to lack of Flash support for the chip. With the latest Flash version and GMA drivers installed, the tested netbook was almost perfectly capable to decode 1080p Youtube clips. There were some dropped frames here and there, but the played Transformers trailer in full HD appeared very fluid. You can see that in the video below.

The CPU usage of the Chrome browser used for the playback was about 30% and the same percentage of CPU load was used by Windows Media Player during a 1080p video playback from the HDD.

Intel Atom N2600 / GMA 3600 Review Conclusion

As you can see from the benchmark results, the reviewed Intel Atom N2600 isn’t a revolutionary netbook processor. It does provide some better computing speed and gaming, but it’s still far behind full-power laptop CPUs. However, thanks to the N2600 (and also similar 1.83GHz N2800), the 2012 netbooks are fully capable to play full HD videos. Something maybe more important than gaming and raw CPU performance on netbooks is battery life and our review of the Acer Aspire One with the N2600 shows that the new Atom chip is very power efficient, enabling excellent battery life of between 5.5 and 7.5 hours with a 6-cell battery. That’s something that many older Atom or AMD-based netbooks aren’t capable of and due to highly mobile nature of netbook computers that is a big plus for Intel.

Gallery

In the gallery below, you can find screen shots of all benchmarks we done on the netbook, including Windows Experience Index, PassMark, 3D Mark 06, PC Mark Vantage, and GeekBench.


Published: April 9, 2012
  • givn up

    I have purchased 2 of these “new” acer aspire one netbooks and have had the same problem with both of them. The software in the computer works fine but the internet is bad. I cannot load youtube videos or games at all. is there something i can do to fix this or should i just return this one like the last one and be done with acer. I never imagined i would get 2 bad computers. all my other computers in the house are fine so i know its not my internet connection.

  • ECPC

    I would be interested to see how it manages HD videos from Netflix. My old E-350 could not handle HD using Silverlight in Netflix. Also, how does it compare to the E-350 in general?

  • Jacky

    Well… I also have the N2600 with GMA 3600
    the driver of this thing is broken…
    lets put it this way…. I can run torchlight smoothly…
    yet… cannot even run Plants vs Zombies…
    most 2D games with cause the machine to crash… completely froze
    Now… I managed to alter some games registry settings to force VSync on them…
    to get them to work… but still… I shouldn’t have to do this in the first place.
    and not every game have that vsync setting available…

    • Goutamsureshtampi

      dude. same here.. cannot even run Plants v. zombies… mine is Asus Eee PC CX 1015 with GMA 3600, 1 GB RAM, the netbook is worth for d cheap price.. but gaming, man am doomed. help me out .. sen me d possible games dat can run with dis limitations, pls

    • Nilanjan Roy

      Same here.. Plants vs Zombies made me do a forced shut down.. I am on Windows7 Enterprise x86… but made some alterations in the compatibility tab.. Xp-sp3+256k color+disable visual themes+Admin mode.. it is running now

  • CyberGusa

    Some corrections…

    USB 3.0 is not integrated yet, it still requires a add on controller and it’ll be mainly the N2800 base models getting it. So most systems will still be USB 2.0 only.

    The NM10 Express Chipset is still pretty much the same as it was with Pine Trail. So the only thing new is that the GMA support HDMI and display port, also internally it supports eDP as a alternative to the usual LVDS.

    While the N2800 is clocked at 1.86GHz, and not 1.83GHz! Also it uses the GMA 3650, which is clocked at 640MHz versus the 400MHz that the 3600 that the N2600 uses is clocked at and the N2800 supports up to 4GB of RAM but the N2600 is still limited to a max of 2GB.

    The Cedar Trail GMAs are based on Imagination’s PowerVR SGX545, similar to the older Intel GMA 500/600 that were based on the SGX535. Unfortunately, this means lousy 3rd party driver support and presently Intel has only released the Windows 7 32bit drivers for these GMA’s.

    There has been some improvements over the months, as initial released benchmarks were lower than those coming out now but the drivers still cripple the GMA’s so support for things like DX are no higher than 9.0c even though the GPU is rated for 10.1…

    However, Intel is mainly focusing on getting the drivers ready for Windows 8. So expect better drivers to become available by then. For now only the video works as it should but allows you to play Blu Rays up to at least 20mbps flawlessly with hardware acceleration of all major video formats. Though you may need to make sure that acceleration is enabled.

    Also, Adobe hasn’t added support for hardware acceleration for the Cedar Trail GMAs… So things like Youtube video are working off the CPU’s and not the GPU. Meaning it’s only because even the low end N2600 is dual core that it can play those HD youtube videos.

    • Tomasz

      N2600 can work with 4GB of ram.

      • CyberGusa

        Not as it should, such support was limited to either the system being large enough for two RAM slots (11.6″ or larger)… the limit for ATOM based netbooks in general has been up to now 2GB per slot… or you can put in a single 4GB RAM module, and it’ll work, but it won’t be able to use the full capacity because it isn’t designed to.

        Only the N2800 was rated to be able to recognize and use the full 4GB of RAM.

        But this is old news now, with the upcoming 22nm Bay Trail update Intel will finally allow support of up to 8GB of RAM for the ATOM series… among other improvements as well!

        We just may be hard pressed to find any netbooks as they’re pretty much no longer made. Asus has discontinued the Eee PC series and the focus seems now on tablets and hybrids but pricing should drop and that should make those options a little more affordable.

        • Tomasz

          I can confirm that N2600 supports 4GB of RAM.

          • CyberGusa

            Sorry, don’t believe you because multiple people have confirmed the limit with the N2600! 4GB of RAM stick can work but the system won’t be able to make full use of it and will mostly treat it like a 2GB stick.

            If your system actually supported a single stick with 4GB capacity then it would be the N2800 and not the N2600 you’d be using!

            That or you’re confusing supporting two 2GB sticks with what the limit per slot is for the ATOM. Larger 11.6″ to 12″ netbooks supported two slots and thus could have up to 4GB, as the limit is per slot!

            Regardless, the older ATOMs are discontinued and the 2GB limit remains for the present 32nm SoC ATOMs.

            While Bay Trail will be the first to blast past the limit with up to 8GB supported! Intel has already shown a demo laptop model with 8GB installed btw!

          • fun

            Well, I am currently using an Aspire One D270 with Atom N2600 CPU and a 4GB DDR3L stick and it works fine. However, Windows 7 x86 will only allow to use 2.99 GB of RAM because of some stupid software limitation – Ubuntu and other linux derivatives will function with the whole 4GB RAM even with 32 bits systems.

            I once read on intel’s forum that the 2GB RAM limitation was set on marketing purposes only, it is not any kind of hardware limitation, and they would even say that N2600 CPUs were not designed to work with 4GB RAM and it could be malfunctioning in that case (LOL).

          • CyberGusa

            Rumor was from the original ATOM release but examination of the architecture showed it was true because of things like limited bandwidth between the CPU and memory.

            Running 64bit basically requires all the hardware and all the software to support it, otherwise you’re just executing 64bit code but not really running 64bit.

            For the N2600 it may actually be true because the N2800 could definitely use up to 4GB of RAM, but the limit isn’t because of the software but firmware, if that’s the actual case…

            And no, Linux isn’t really using the full 4GB either… it just recognizing that there is 4GB installed but there is still reserved memory, etc.

            Only way to get around a firmware lock is to change the firmware!

          • fun

            Well, I would suggest to try by yourself, pick up any atom N2600 based netbook and swap in a 4GB DDR3 stick. It will be recognized under its full capacity (provided you are not running windows starter which is limited to 2GB anyway).

            Just google N2600 4GB RAM and you will see that this is more than just a rumor… honestly, do you really think that all these people can get around a firmware lock ?

            Even Intel admits that the N2600 can work with 4GB RAM:

            http://communities.intel.com/thread/33466

          • CyberGusa

            Sorry but you’re confusing recognizing the capacity from being able to actually use all of it under 64bit!

            If you look back on my original reply to Tomasz, note that I already replied that the N2600 can recognize a single 4GB module but pointed out it won’t be able to use it properly under 64bit!

            The Intel rep who responded to that question in you link only gave a generalized answer but was explaining why there is a limit!

            Marketing was only implied to why there was different designs for the architecture but was not implying that it was only marketing!

            The Rep even pointed out that while the RAM could work there was a risk that the 4GB module could provoke an unstable environment (system hangs, blue screens, restarts, etc) or even a processor failure in the future unless the system was specifically made to support it!

            So is actually the opposite of what you thought it implied!

            Even with basically the same architecture, the N2600 typically has EMT64 disabled in firmware!

            And I have tried it, multiple times in fact because I’ve helped fix a lot of peoples with their netbooks for years!

          • fun

            I am talking about 32 bits systems. 64 bits systems might or might not work properly depending on the manufacturer. Some of them have disabled that possibility in their BIOS but still, the N2600 is capable of adressing to every byte of 4GB RAM modules and this feature is not reserved to 64 bits systems. Just try lubuntu 12.04 32 bits and fill up the system memory.

            Unstable environement with 4GB modules is complete bullshit, as it is specified in intel’s official N2600 datasheet that the processor is compatible with 4 GB modules (though it is not specified that the processor will use all of that capacity, but real use shows that this is the case). Now, look by yourself in the said datasheet and tell me all of this is a lie !

            Frankly, I have yet to see a computer becoming unstable because of too much ram… the worst that can happen in that case is the computer simply ignoring that extra memory (it won’t be able to adress it). So much for being unstable…

            And for what I can see by myself, by using an aspire one D270 with a 4GB module, N2600 CPUs are capable of working with more than 2GB RAM, that is for sure.

          • CyberGusa

            No, there’s a differences from simply accessing the RAM capacity and truly being able to use it natively!

            Even with Windows you can set up Page Address Extension (PAE) to be able to access all of the RAM but this is only a work around and only with true 64bit support can you get the full benefit!

            While PAE allows the OS to access more RAM, it does not change the amount of virtual address space available to a process. Each process running in 32-bit Windows is still limited to a 4 GB virtual address space.

            As for the DATA sheet, it specifically states no support for 4 or 8 GB modules, as in no official support!

            Don’t confuse that the data sheet also covers the N2800 as well as the N2600, not to mention also the D2000 Series too, and for the N2800 it is specified that a single 4GB can be supported but with EMT64 disabled by default for the N2600 then true 64bit isn’t a option for it…

            While the BIOS will usually show the RAM capacity correctly, but how much of it is actually usable, without some sort of work around, is determined by whether the system and OS properly support 64bit or falls back on 32bit…

          • bonami2

            At the end it work or not 4gb is 40$ 2gb is 20$ lol ?????

          • CyberGusa

            Problem with many of these systems is the RAM tends to be soldered now… So, unless you can be sure you could upgrade, you’d have to get it with the capacity RAM you want to begin with…

          • John Wolfe

            I had my N2600 running win7 starter but after installing a 4gb stick of DDR3 it only recognized 2GB because 7 starter only recognizes up to 2 GB of RAM. So I purchased a solid state drive and did a fresh install of the basic win 7 home basic 64 bit and it recognizes all 4GB and made an amazing difference as well as the solid state hard drive. Win7 home basic 64 bit will support 8GB but I can’t say for sure that the N2600 will support 8GB of RAM. Also remember to check your Bios settings. I am on the Gateway with the N2600 right now with a 4GB stick & Win7 Home Basic 64 bit & a solid state drive and no problems!!!!!!!!!!!

          • CyberGusa

            Wow, resurrecting a year old topic… Anyway, the N2600 specifically won’t support more than 4GB as that’s the limit of the memory controller, it’s not just a matter of running a 64bit OS because everything from the hardware to the OS has to support it… So what I stated was separate from the issue of W7 Starter edition…

            The N2800 is the only one that really supported any more and that didn’t really change until they finally re-imagined the ATOM with the new Bay Trail’s and are the first to truly support 4 to 8 GB of RAM… at least for the ones that are branded under the Celeron/Pentium lines and support DDR3L RAM…

            LP-DDR3 RAM used in tablets and other mobile devices is still hard to come by in capacities larger than 3GB… While some of the budget range specifically are limited to 1 or 2GB of RAM and none of them are upgradeable because LP-DDR3 RAM is imbedded RAM and thus soldered and non-user replaceable…

            The mobile range also uses eMMC storage instead of SSDs or HDDs… So have some benefits of solid state drive but are generally slower than SSDs and barely faster than a HDD in many respects but they’re cheap, low powered and are the size of a single chip and thus ideal for mobile devices…

            Both LP-DDR RAM and eMMC is advancing in the next year or so… by the time Goldmont based ATOMs come out they’ll be making the switch to more energy efficient LP-DDR4, with double the max capacity (meaning up to 8GB for mobile devices finally) and more advance eMMC for more SSD like performance but these won’t come out till the last part of 2015 through to early 2016…

            For now, we’re mainly looking forward to lower cost through the upcoming Braswell ATOM updates that will at least offer a significant boost to GPU performance…

            Unlike the Cedar Trail N2600/N2800 on through Clover Trail, Bay Trail onward re-introduced the ATOM to the Intel GMA… Bay Trail’s was specifically based on the Ivy Bridge (Gen 7)GMA HD4000 but scaled down to only 4EUs instead of 16 and optimized for mobile usage…

            Braswell and Cherry Trail will up the GPU to Broadwell based (Gen 8) and increase the number of EUs to 8 or 16 (premium range)… with a more modest improvement in RAM capacity and eMMC performance but the memory bandwidth will at least be improved to help with the GPU performance increase… but because of 14nm production delays we’ll probably won’t see these updates until the beginning of the second half of 2015…

            Thus, right now we’re mainly seeing low end cheap tablets being offered to cover the spectrum not covered by the early higher end tablets, etc…

            But, while netbooks are no longer being made, ATOMs are still being put into devices with similar usages and product range… A good example is the Asus Transformer T100… Though, for optimal performance in the budget range the T200 recently started offering 64bit OS and 4GB of RAM and the Keyboard Dock supports 7mm drive installation for extra storage options…

            Mind, the higher end Bay Trail’s offer about triple the performance of a N2600… showing how far it has come since the netbook days… Along with even better battery life…