Monday 22 February 2010

Atom Z530 identity crisis

Last week I peeked at /proc/cpuinfo on a Atom Z530 netbook and got the following model name information:

model name : Intel(R) Core (TM) CPU Z530 @ 1.60GHz

Is the kernel mistaken? It's not a Core CPU, it's an Atom! In fact the Z530 is mistaken. If one examines page 29 of you will see errata AAE29:

"AAE29 CPUID Instruction Returns Incorrect Brand String

When a CPUID instruction is executed with EAX = 80000002H, 80000003H and 80000004H on an Intel® Atom(TM) processor, the return value contains the brand string Intel(R) Core(TM)2 CPU when it should have Intel(R) Atom(TM) CPU."

Doh! That's a rather poor mistake in the silicon.

Apparently this affects Intel® Atom(TM) processors Z550, Z540, Z530, Z520, Z515, Z510, and Z500 on 45-nm process technology. It is fixable with a microcode fix, which normally involves getting a BIOS upgrade.

The errata makes interesting reading - especially errata AAE44 and AAE46 - for older kernels I suggest booting with kernel boot option mem=nopentium to work around any bizarre kernel oopses caused by these particular processor bugs. In fact, I recommend this for any Atom processor as these bugs seem to also apply to the Atom Nxxx series to.

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