A while ago, I bought a Vero 4K+ media player. OSMC is excellent, and I love the Vero, but that’s a different story. This is about the machine it replaced. An older, passively cooled Shuttle barebone I previously used to watch movies in my living room.
That little Shuttle machine has a Celeron 1037U CPU. And like with any older hardware I get my hands on, I wanted to see how useful it still was. I wasn’t hopeful because, on paper, the 1037U seems worse than the already dead slow Celeron in my Toshiba Chromebook-turned-Linux-laptop.
|CPU||Intel Celeron 1037U||Intel Celeron N2840|
|Introduced||Q1 2013||Q3 2014|
|Core / threads||2 / 2||2 / 2|
|Clock speed||1.80 GHz||2.16 GHz (2.58 GHz boost)|
|Lithography||22 nm||22 nm|
|Instruction Set||64 bit||64 bit|
|TDP||17 W||7.5 W|
|Graphics Frequency||350 MHz / 1 GHz||311 MHz / 792 MHz|
Besides the higher TDP (the amount of power the chip is designed to use during normal operation) these specs seemed similar to me. The fact that the 1037U is older and the lower clock speed made me think this thing would be terrible. Spoiler: it’s not.
I installed Linux Mint on it to see what that would be like. Since I’m not really a fan of XFCE, I opted for the heavier Cinnamon version. To my surprise, it is very responsive. Hell, it feels downright fast.
In benchmarks I could find online, the 1037U beats the N2840 by at least 50%, and in some cases by up to 400%. That’s a huge difference for chips with such similar specs.
Core vs Atom
So I did some digging, and found that the 1037U is based on Intel’s “Ivy Bridge” architecture. Basically, it’s a scaled down version of the 3rd generation of Intel Core CPUs. The N2840 however is “Silvermont”, a power-efficient architecture meant to compete with the ARM CPU’s of that time. Silvermont is essentially a range of Atom CPUs. Like the ones in first-gen netbooks. The N2840 is a very, very slow chip.
While the little Shuttle machine runs well with Mint installed, there’s a catch. The internal graphics of the 1037U is limited to 1080p “full HD” resolution. There’s no way I can get it to output my monitor’s native 1440p resolution. It does run 1080p at 75Hz though. Technically, 1440p shouldn’t be an issue. This is likely an artificial limitation. Guess Intel needs to make sure we occasionally buy a new CPU.