ntel's Atom processors have evolved in many ways in the five-or-so years since their introduction, but it seems like they've never quite been an ideal solution for any given application. The CPUs were designed from the outset to prioritize power usage over performance—a design philosophy that defines the ARM-based chips in most of today's smartphones and tablets—but the first Atom processors in netbooks were paired with old, relatively power-hungry chipsets that negated their power-saving prowess. The chipsets eventually became more efficient (and, in some cases, were integrated into the same silicon as the CPU itself), but today's Atoms remain stuck with lackluster GPUs that seriously hamper their usefulness for the visually slick Windows 8 (just see our benchmarks of Acer's Iconia W510
to see proof positive of all three of those observations).
2013 may be the year where all of that changes. We've known bits and pieces of Intel's Atom roadmap for awhile now, but the company is talking more freely about its future plans at Mobile World Congress this week. You probably won't see any sort of Intel-driven sea change in phones and tablets this year—new chips from Qualcomm, Nvidia, and Samsung are more than competitive enough to keep that from happening—but some of these new Atoms may just be products that can be recommended without serious reservations.