Print 25 comment(s) - last by Oregonian2.. on Apr 5 at 2:40 PM

"Silverthorne" on the left, "Diamondville" on the right.  (Source:

Intel's Atom "Silverthorne" rests atop a penny while the System Controller Hub "Poulsbo" leans up against a quarter.  (Source: Intel)
Intel fleshes out the MID platform with five low-power CPUs

Intel has high hopes for its new Silverthorne/Diamondville-based Atom processors. Intel formally introduced Atom and Centrino Atom in early March and indicated that the processors/platform would be used in a wide variety of devices.

Intel expects for its new Atom architecture to target $40B in new markets. "It’s not just the 1 billion people that have access to the Internet now. It’s the next 2 billion people. It’s not just about selling more PCs, but bringing new devices and new price points to bring those people onto the Internet," said Intel CEO Paul Otellini in March. "We are not talking about repurposing old silicon, but designing new silicon for each of these different areas."

Intel is now taking its first steps to deliver Atom processors to the masses. The first round of Atom processors are the Silverthorne-based units which feature a 13mm x 14mm package size.

The five new 45nm, high-k Atom processor range in speed from 800MHz to 1.86GHz and all feature 512KB of L2 cache. The Z500 and Z510 clock in at 800MHz and 1.1GHz respectively and feature a FSB operating at 400MHz. The Z520, Z530, and Z540 represent speed grades of 1.33GHz, 1.6GHz, and 1.86GHz respectively using a 533MHz FSB. The 533MHz SKUs will feature Hyper-Threading -- a technology that many are familiar with thanks to the unloved Pentium 4 processors.

The family of Atom processors features a thermal design power (TDP) range of 0.65 to 2.4 W; average power range of 160 to 200 mW; and idle power range of 80 to 100 mW.

Prices for the chips range from $45 for the Z500 to $160 for the Z540 in quantities of 1,000.

The Atom Z5xx processors are aimed at what Intel calls the Mobile Internet Device (MID) market. These devices fit into your pocket and are expected to have excellent battery life. Other targeted platforms for these Atom processors include GPS devices, portable video players, and converged tablets.

Backing up Intel's Atom Z5xx processors is Intel's new System Controller Hub (SCH) which was previously known as Poulsbo. The SCH incorporates HD audio, PCIe, USB, and SDIO support. The SCH will also have extended capabilities for WiFi, WiMAX, EV-DO and HSDPA.

Also included on the SCH is a third-party graphics solution which is quite a departure for Intel. In this case, Intel licensed Imagination Technologies’ POWERVR SGX graphics and POWERVR VXD multi-standard HD video technologies. The graphics core is capable of supporting hardware accelerated 720p and 1080i HD resolutions.

"The introduction of Intel’s Centrino Atom processor technology incorporating our POWERVR graphics and video technologies signifies the beginning of a new class of Mobile Internet Device,” said Tony King-Smith, Imagination Technologies’ VP of Marketing. “Imagination looks forward to its continued collaboration with leading industry players to provide products and technologies that help enable ever more dynamic visual user experiences."

"Today is a historic day for Intel and the high-tech industry as we deliver our first-ever Intel Atom processor and surround it with a great package of technology," said Intel Senior VP Anand Chandrasekher. "Mix in the incredible innovation coming from our fellow device makers and software vendors, and we will change the way consumers will come to know and access the World Wide Web. These forthcoming MIDs, and some incredible longer-term plans our customers are sharing with us, will show how small devices can deliver a big Internet experience."

The next big release for Intel's Atom processors will come in the form of the Diamondville-based processors. These processors will go in devices which Intel calls "netbooks". However, we know them more commonly as devices like the Eee PC 900 and ECS G10IL.

The Diamondville-based N270 will run at 1.6GHz using a 533MHz FSB. This is the chip that will find a home in the previously mentioned nettops. According to Intel's latest roadmaps, the chip will be priced at $44 in quantities of 1,000.

Intel is going full-bore with its new Atom processor lineup and it should be interesting to see how the Silverthorne and Diamondville-based machines fare in the marketplace. Diamondville-based nettops are pretty much a sure bet as far as sales are concerned, but many are still not sold on the whole MID concept which would cater to Silverthorne.

For a more thorough look at Intel's Atom architecture, take a look at AnandTech's analysis.

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RE: Out of place
By mlau on 4/2/2008 3:18:08 AM , Rating: 2
Well, the Atoms are interesting for Laptop makers who want an even smaller windows box (after all, what else is there that windows runs on. CE doesn't count).

The automotive and deep embedded market doesn't (yet) care about it,
simply because they already have proven solutions (ARM/MIPS/PPC/SH based) and are hesitant to adopt a quirky (and concerning firmware: closed and unpredictable) new arch.

Also, most embedded ARMs have *much* more hardware integrated, with a much lower overall power consumption.

So for even smaller windows laptops, yes, the atom will be a success, no doubt. For the more interesting small/embedded device markets (with higher margins) ARM (more precise: not x86) will continue to rule in the forseeable future.

RE: Out of place
By JoeBanana on 4/2/2008 3:55:57 AM , Rating: 2
To note that atom is betting on linux and leaving the windows behind, partly due to price and partly due to the amazing scalability of the linux. There are currently plans for variant of Ubuntu and Asianux.

RE: Out of place
By erikejw on 4/2/2008 9:48:10 AM , Rating: 1
They seem to price themselves out of the mobilephone and settopbox market and others.

They will be grear for micro laptops etc though.

RE: Out of place
By FITCamaro on 4/2/2008 12:25:46 PM , Rating: 2
Perhaps the free cell phone market yes. But not for devices like the iPhone.

Honestly I would love a phone with a chip like this in it, a screen like the iPhones, and using Google's new AndroidOS.

I also think this thing potentially has a future in a gaming handheld. 800MHz would still be more than 2x the speed of the CPU in the PSP. And for that kind of screen size, the GPU on the Poulsbo chipset would be more than enough. Imagine a handheld that used DX9 level graphics. At around a 400x250 resolution, an 800MHz Atom and the Poulsbo GPU would do just fine in terms of power. Microsoft could even modify the original Xbox OS to run on it.

RE: Out of place
By Oregonian2 on 4/5/2008 2:40:02 PM , Rating: 2
These kinds of processors, and x86 processors generally aren't suited for the embedded market. Most embedded products are designed to have the hardware built for a relatively long period of time. The market life for x86 processors are short. It's consumer market related. Any given processor will be dropped (possibly with a price boost at the end) in a relatively short period of time. Processors targetted toward the embedded market will have commitments for the part being made for a fairly long period of time even when considered "obsolete". The processor in an embedded product is "beside the point" of the product and the maker doesn't want to have to redsign it every few years just to keep making the very same product.

Yes, I've been designing products with embedded processors for about 35 years (first one I used was the intel 8008-1, but I'll say that one hasn't been manufactured in a looooong time). :-) But others have been made for ten years or even longer. Imagine building a product that depends upon having x86 silicon that came out out more than ten to twelve years ago (allow for design time from release to product as well).

P.S. - One can mitigate designs by using modular construction with processor cards that then can be replaced by "compatible" modules later on (possibly third party made cards). Just not very cost efficient.

"Intel is investing heavily (think gazillions of dollars and bazillions of engineering man hours) in resources to create an Intel host controllers spec in order to speed time to market of the USB 3.0 technology." -- Intel blogger Nick Knupffer

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