Intel on Monday unveiled its next-generation family of Atom microprocessors, adding three new chips and a new chipset to the line. The processors are aimed at low-end netbook portables as well as desktop PCs, Intel says, and all utilize a 45nm manufacturing process and integrate graphics processing capabilities and memory controllers directly into the processors, resulting in much better performance and reduced power consumption.

"The Intel Atom processor has fueled an entirely new category of computing over the last year and a half and we think the growth will continue," says Intel Corporate Vice President Mooly Eden. "We're excited to be delivering the next-generation Atom platform and working across the industry as we head into a second phase of growth, powering innovative new system designs with better performance, smaller footprints, and better battery life."

The new platform consists of one single core chip for netbooks, the Atom N450, and two desktop chips, the single core Atom D410 and the dual-core Atom D510; all run at 1.66 GHz. Additionally, Intel unveiled the new NM10 Express Chipset, which works with all of the new processors. The NM10 was previously code-named Pine Trail.

The biggest advance in the new Atom chips is the integration of graphics processing, which reduces the number of processing chips required in a low-end PC from 3 to 2. Intel says this advance results in a 60 percent reduction in the size of the platform footprint and a 20 percent improvement in average power consumption on netbooks. For desktop PCs, the platform footprint improves by 70 percent.

Next generation Atom-based chips will begin shipping in new PCs January 4, according to Intel. Expect to see a slew of netbooks and net-tops built around these chips at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas that week