The out-of-tree driver is truly crap.
But I'm betting you've got OpenGL 2.1 at best, and bought your laptop before the rise of the Poulsbo crap and Optimus.And to answer your question, my old Acer Aspire netbook uses an Atom paired with an Intel GMA950 onboard GPU. So no poulsbo issues here. And I get superior battery life over an AMD equivalent (albeit much lesser [4 hours] than what I could squeeze out under Windows [6+ hours]). Since my netbook is really just to edit and shoot off the occasional word document and net surf while on the move, battery life takes precedence over processing power.
And any Atom of that generation is 32-bit, probably single core with hyperthreading. I saw a need for something that could handle 64-bit.
Also, I do use VMs...too often to make do with unaccelerated emulation.
These are things I thought about in late 2010 when I looked for a new laptop after losing my Aspire One (made in 2009, Atom N270, GMA945 if I remember right, but it's been a few years, AR5007 wireless).
An Atom of that generation has good compatability with linux on 32-bit x86, but I had several reasons not to look at another Atom netbook:
(a) I knew that getting a new Atom by then meant Poulsbo, and that that was _not_ a road with a bright future. That alone nixed Atom-Google Earth sans hardware opengl is not usable, especially on a 1.6ghz atom.
At that point, Optimus was about as much of a mess.
(b) 64-bit was getting big then, and I don't make purchases on the assumption that I replace a laptop every 2 years. Lightworks is 64-bit only, so I consider that validation.
(c) As a distro hopper, testing things in VMs was important.
And (d)...I wanted a smallish, lower cost laptop, but bigger than a 9"-10" netbook, and...I also wanted a Thinkpad.
An x100e with AMD Neo and Radeon HD 3200M met my needs exactly.. And with the dual messes of Optimus and Poulsbo, I figured that was the best response to Intel.