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The 4-core Intel® Atom® C1110 Processor: Not your Father's Atom

The 4-core Intel® Atom® C1110 Processor: Not your Father's Atom

Netgate's latest security gateway, the Netgate 4200, uses the 4-core Intel® Atom® C1110 2.1Ghz CPU. If you have some familiarity with Atom processors, you might expect that the 4200 is an edge device with low power and boring performance, but you would be wrong

The  Intel Atom processor was launched in 2008, designed to deliver "good enough" performance while requiring minimal power. It was available as a System on a Chip (SOC) and was very small, with a package size of 13mm x 14mm. It was not targeted at desktops or laptops but instead at a variety of consumer-facing "smart" devices. It had integrated graphics but was woefully underpowered by today's standards.

You may be more familiar with the more recent C3000-series of Atom processors, code-named “Denverton.” The Atom C-series is optimized for network appliances and appears in servers and edge devices, like routers and switches, typically with one or more integrated ethernet controllers. The Atom C3338R, one of the C3000-series CPUs, launched in mid-2020 with two Denverton cores using the “Goldmont” SOC microarchitecture. The Netgate 4100 Security Gateway uses the C3338R, with two cores running at 1.8 GHz. 

The Intel Atom C1110 isn’t an evolutionary step forward, it’s a leap. It uses efficient cores (or E-cores) code-named “Gracemont” that were initially developed for Intel's 12th-generation high-performance Core series, “Alder Lake.” The Atom C1110 incorporates four of these Gracemont E-cores, which industry blog Anandtech has called "a significant microarchitectural jump" over the previous Atom core design, running at 2.1 GHz while maintaining the focus on efficiency. It can use faster DDR5 memory (at 5000 MT/s compared to the Atom C3338R running DDR4-1866). It has three levels of cache, a Resource Director that arbitrates cache accesses between the four cores in a cluster to ensure fairness while prioritizing multi-threaded performance), supports AVX, AVX2, and VAES to boost the speed of encryption/decryption, all while requiring just 13W TDP.

The results speak for themselves. The Netgate 4200, with the four-core Intel Atom C1110 and running pfSense Plus software, has blazing-fast performance. It achieves benchmark results in routing, firewall, and IPsec VPN that are up to THREE TIMES FASTER than the Netgate 4100. 


Netgate 4100

Netgate 4200

L3 Forwarding

3.20 Gbps

9.28 Gbps (2.9x faster)

Firewall (10K ACLs)

4.09 Gbps

8.61 Gbps (2.1x faster)

IPsec VPN*

960 Mbps

3.20 Gbps (3.3x faster)

                    *Netgate 4100: (AES-GCM-128 w/QAT), Netgate 4200: (AES-GCM-128 w/VAES)
Tests conducted with IMIX & iPerf3 traffic, using pfSense Plus software version 23.09.1

The Intel Atom C1110 is most certainly “not your father's Atom,” with a unique combination of performance and efficiency that makes it an excellent choice for networking and edge devices. The power of the Atom C1110 combined with 4 2.5Gbps Intel NICs and the power of pfSense® Plus software are why the Netgate 4200 is an ideal network solution for small and medium businesses.