Tom's Hardware has performed an interesting evaluation, intended to place some quantitative perspective around the performance of the Atom netbook processor. Here's how they framed their test:
Most people know that Intel’s Atom is a slow, low-cost processor. But does it even offer enough performance to take it beyond desktop processors nearly a decade old?"
The comparison placed an Atom against a Northwood Pentium 4. That was the first P4 to use Socket 478. It was fabricated in 130-nm CMOS -- whoa! that takes one back. Tom's used two different parts, clocked at 2.2 GHz and 3.2 GHz, both with 200-MHz front-side buses. Two Atoms were used in the face off. One was a first-generation, 45-nm Diamondville device, clocked at 1.6-GHz with a 133-MHz front-side bus. The second was a D510 dual-core Pineville model.
Tom's detailed benchmarks delve into raw computing horsepower, graphics, and power efficiency. Here's their top-line result:
In the end, there’s a simple conclusion for everyone who wants a low cost system: keep your old Pentium 4 system if you have to, but bear in mind that all relevant metrics (performance, noise, power, and efficiency) are pathetic by modern standards.
If you can afford to spend a few hundred dollars on a nettop, we’d definitely recommend this. We usually rant about Atom due to its shortcomings compared to desktop platforms, but it simply trounces the old P4s."
To read the full review, see Intel Pentium 4 Vs. Atom: A Battle Of The Generations.