As we've reported in the past, Intel actively restricts what kind of hardware specs netbook manufacturers can include with their products in order to get preferential Atom pricing. With the arrival of its dual-core N550 processor, however, it appears the company is set to loosen up a little bit by allowing displays up to 12-inch in size. Previously the limit was 10.2-inches for panels used in Atom-equipped devices, in an attempt to avoid cannibalization of the notebook market.

Netbooks using the Atom N550 are expected to feature 1GB of DDR3 memory and either a 32GB solid-state drive or traditional 250GB platter-based hard drive. As for the processor itself it is reported to have two cores running at 1.5GHz each, 1MB of Level 2 cache, and a TDP of just 8.5W -- two watts more than the single-core Atom N475. Netbook models sporting the new chip will reportedly range in price between $350 and $400.

For notebooks larger than 12.1 inches Intel will continue pushing their 2010 Core processors, which offer faster speeds for mainstream laptop buyers and juicier margins for the giant chip maker.