What is Intel Atom? (Explained)

What is Intel Atom?

The Intel Atom refers to a specific family of computer processors with low power and is designed specifically for using in the smaller mobile devices.

From a technical viewpoint, Intel Atom refers to the line of ultra low voltage processors with the IA-32 and x86-64 instruction sets.


  • Designed and marketed by Intel, the Atom processors come in a small form factor to be used in mobile devices and embedded systems.
  • The design of these processors allows them to perform basic computing tasks most efficiently.
  • Since these processors consume less power during operation, they also generate much less heat as compared to other regular Intel Core CPUs.
  • All Intel Atom processors follow the IA-32 or x86 instruction set architecture with a varied number of cores ranging between 1 and 24 depending on the series.
  • These processors come with several useful operational features that help them with their performance and power-saving features that offer a low Thermal Power Design.

Understanding Intel Atom

What is Intel Atom

First announced on March 2, 2008, the Intel Atom processors consume less power and therefore generate less heat.

These chips were originally built in 45 nm CMOS or Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor technology. However, in the subsequent versions, the 32 nm process was used, such as in Cedar.

All Intel Atom processors use the x86 (IA-32) instruction set architecture but do not support the AMD 64 instruction set such as the Atom N2xx and Z5xx series models.

Support for x86-64 code was not included until the desktop Diamondville cores and the desktop and mobile Pineview cores.

However, the Centerton server processors support the Intel 64 instruction set.

The processors can support 64-bit operation only if the processor, BIOS and chipset support Intel 64.

This means that its ability in this particular aspect may differ from one motherboard to another.

The first Atom processors were built on the Bonnell microarchitecture with specific abilities such as:

  • Executing up to two instructions per cycle
  • Translating x86 or CISC instructions into micro ops before execution and
  • Offering a comparatively good show with only two integer ALUs.
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It also did not need any speculative execution, instruction reordering, or register renaming.

Over the years, several other microarchitectures were also used such as:

  • Saltwell
  • Goldmont
  • Goldmont Plus
  • Tremont
  • Silvermont
  • Airmont
  • Gracemont and
  • Crestmont.

The features included in these different versions, in no particular order, are:

The Intel Atom processors also come with several low-power or power-saving features such as:

  • Enhanced SpeedStep technology
  • CMOS Front Side Bus
  • Clock gating
  • C1, C2, C4 and C6 states
  • Dynamic cache sizing
  • Split I/O power and others.

As a consequence, these processors have a relatively low Thermal Design Power or TDP.

What is Intel Atom Used for?

Typically, all Atom microprocessors are produced in a small form factor using a micro-FCBGA package. Therefore, these are mainly used in smaller devices due to their low power consumption and for network infrastructure and security as well as storage appliances.

The devices which use an Intel Atom processor are:

  • Nettops
  • Netbooks
  • Mobile phones
  • Mobile Internet Devices or MIDs
  • Advanced robotics and
  • Embedded applications.

Can Windows 10 Run on an Intel Atom?

Well, it may, but it will depend largely on the versions of the operating system you wish to run as well as the model of the processor your system has.

If you wish to run Windows 10 64-bit then it will work with no issues if you only download and install 64 bit versions of the entire set of drivers.

On the other hand, if you run Microsoft Windows 10 IoT Enterprise, which runs on Atom only, you will have to install it only on a solid state disk or a hard drive.

However, devices with Intel Clover Trail Atom processors will not support Microsoft Windows 10.

How to Speed Up Intel Atom Processors?

In order to speed up the performance of the Intel Atom processor you will have to make some tweaks in the advanced system settings in Systems.

The processes to follow are:

  • Go to Systems
  • Open Advanced System Settings
  • Click on Adjustments for Best Performance
  • On your desktop click on to Graphics Property
  • Go to Power on the menu
  • Disable Extended Battery Life for Gaming
  • Click on Yes to apply
  • Enable Display Power saving Technology, if it is there
  • Go to C Drive
  • Click on Properties
  • Click on Tools
  • Un-tick Allow files on this drive to have contents indexed…
  • Click OK
  • Run Disk Cleanup and
  • Optimize and defrag the drive.
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You may also need to make some changes in the RAM settings to enhance the speed and performance of the Atom processor in your system.

For this, you will have to follow these steps:

  • Restart the computer
  • Go to BIOS settings
  • Go to chipset
  • Go to Northbridge
  • Click on Memory Configuration Option
  • Increase the Frequency A option to a desirable and operable limit
  • Go to DRAM Speed Grade, if it is there
  • Change the setting from the default Typical to Fast
  • Save and exit.

For the second part of the tweak, only go ahead with it if you know what you are doing.

Do keep in mind that any error in the process can cause some serious hindrances in the booting and performance of the system.

Is Atom Good for Beginners?

Yes, Intel Atom is good for both beginners as well as veterans due to its features and design that offers a more comprehensive environment in which you can perform basic and more-than-basic tasks.

The few good reasons to say also are:

  • It is easy to install almost in any computer system
  • It offers beautiful open source text editors with great extensions
  • It is very normal and easy to use with no new keyboard shortcuts to learn
  • The user interface is quite easy to use and there are no major deviations from conventional user interface
  • Wide variety of syntax highlighter options to offer better language and syntax support and
  • Useful features that allow flexible workflow and easy theme creation.

In short, you can use Atom for writing a simple or a technical document or anything else quite easily and conveniently.

How Many Cores are There in Intel Atom?

The number of cores in the Atom processor may vary according to the series it belongs to. Usually, it is between 1 and 24 physical cores. 

The C series Intel Atom processors support lightweight processing but may have as many as 8 cores to offer higher acceleration in processing and better network integration.

The P series Intel Atom processors, on the other hand, come packed with features and components that offer a powerful performance.

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These chips can have as many as 24 cores to meet the demand for network edge workloads of high density.

And, all of the E series processors that are intended for private use do not have this Hyper Threading Technology.

Questions & Answers:

Is Intel Atom a Good Processor?

Intel Atom is a good processor to use in low-end, smaller and budget devices such as tablets, netbooks, and low-end laptops.

It will support basic computing tasks and prove to be a durable, cost effective, and flexible option. However, it is not good at gaming.

Can Intel Atom Run Games?

No, the Intel Atom is not designed for playing games of any type. You may get away with Minecraft at a low 20 to 30 frames per second, but it will struggle with anything more demanding.

Is Atom Processor Good for Programming?

You can say that the Atom processor is just OK when used for programming if you do not want to do too many heavy things at once.

Within its abilities, the processor will be perfectly adequate but there will be a lot of areas where you will find it limiting if you are writing codes for games.

Can You Replace Intel Atom Processor?

No, you cannot replace an Intel Atom processor since it is soldered to the motherboard. You will have to buy a new motherboard if you want to replace it.

Is Intel Atom an ARM Processor?

No, it is not because Intel uses the x86-based architecture for its Atom line of processors to support low power usage.

Does Atom Use a Lot of RAM?

Yes, initially, Atom may consume a lot of RAM, but after a few minutes, the RAM will be released and everything will go back to normal. It is for this behavior, Atom, generally needs a minimum of 7 GB initially, especially the Atom server.

Why are Intel Atoms so Slow?

The main reason behind the Atom processors being so slow is their design that is meant for ultra low power operations and not for really high performance.

The simple design of these processors allows a much smaller thermal envelope as compared to any regular Intel CPU can have.


The Intel Atom processors are designed to perform basic computing operations quite efficiently.

It is meant to consume less power, generate less heat and it also comes in a small form factor, which allows it to be used in the smaller mobile devices such as netbooks, phones, low-end laptops and other embedded systems.

About Puja Chatterjee

Puja ChatterjeePuja Chatterjee is a technical writer with extensive knowledge about computers. She graduated from BIMS. Her expertise includes technology writing and client relationship management gained through over 12 years of experience. Follow Her at Linkedin.