Intel's first dual-core Atom processor for netbooks, the N550, is about to hit store shelves inside a number of netbooks. The new chip brings a much needed breath of fresh air to a market that has seen impressive growth over the last couple of years but not much action on the hardware specs front. Though the N550 clocks in lower than most Atom chips, at 1.5GHZ, Intel says the extra core plus twice the cache (1MB) should make up for a more "responsive" experience.

This is not the first time a dual core Atom has found its way into a netbook. The Asus Eee PC 1201N, for example, pairs a desktop chip known as the Atom N330 with Nvidia Ion graphics. But the extra performance comes at the expense of battery life. According to Intel, however, netbooks with the new chip will offer similar battery life as single-core Atom N450 offerings -- though it's expected to consume around 3 watts more with a TDP of 8.5W.

The Atom N550 will be made using a 45-nanometer manufacturing process and support DDR3 memory. The new chip will be offered in products by Acer, Asus, Lenovo, Samsung and Toshiba starting today -- though we've yet to spot any netbook announcements besides the Dell Inspiron Mini 1018, which still features the single core N455.