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Despite never being battle tested, Intel claims its smart phone processors will be the most powerful on the planet.  (Source: Funimation/Toei)
Hardware giant says that its upcoming Atom-based smart phone processor will crush ARM chips in power, performance

Intel certainly is taking a bold, if dangerous position.  Without having shipped a single smart phone system on a chip, it's claiming that its first generation smart phone chips will beat ARM designs when Intel launches the chips to the market later this year.

Speaking at the Mobile World Conference 2011 in Barcelona, Spain Anand Chandrasekher, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Ultra Mobility Group, made this bold prediction.  He concedes that the upcoming smart phone core, dubbed Medfield, will only tie ARM cores in standby time.  But he claims it will blow away the competition in the amount of time the phone can remain active and how fast it can perform processing.

That seems a bit overly optimistic, given that Intel is only in its first generation, while most ARM CPU makers are well into their second or third generation.

The good news for Intel, though, is that at least it appears like it will be delivering a product sometime soon.  It says [press release] it is currently producing the smart phone chips, which should be due in products late this year.  

The first generation chips come with an HSPA+ modem, courtesy of the technology that Intel acquired from its $1.4B USD purchase of Infineon.  While ARM processors with on-chip LTE modems should be available near the start of next year, Intel's LTE-ready chips won't arrive until holiday season 2012.  

The most immediate problem (other than living up to its huge claims) facing Intel is convincing hardware manufacturers to embrace Medfield.  If the performance is as Earth-shaking as Intel claims that shouldn't be too hard to do -- but if the performance is closer to what one would expect in reality, it may be an uphill battle for Intel.  So far only LG has showed off an Atom-based smart phone prototype.  No hardware partners have been announced, though Intel claims it should begin shipping product later this year.

The big issue facing Intel, though, is that if it isn't able to live up to its boastful claims and doesn't take the fight to ARM, ARM will likely take the fight to it.  Qualcomm has already aired a quad-core 2.5 GHz ARM chip that will be available next year.  With Windows 8 set to support ARM-based PCs, Intel could be in a world of hurt in the power-conscience laptop market.

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RE: Good article except for the drama
By MozeeToby on 2/15/2011 1:32:39 PM , Rating: 3
As far as I know, no one outside of Intel has seen these chips to do any independent tests. Not to say it isn't true, just that it needs to be taken with a big grain of salt. I don't doubt their power draw has improved dramatically though, they've learned all kinds of tricks over the last few years, even putting some of them into their desktop models to reduce cooling needs.

Their real problem might very well be software. I imagine the Windows phone software is probably x86 compatible, but I haven't heard much about the status of the x86 Android version (a quick look at their website looks like they're in the process of merging 2.2 into the repo). I suppose no one is throwing money at it right now, and that might change if Intel can offer a competitive mobile chip but Intel is going to need to be significantly better than the competition for someone to be willing to put money into the project.

By Shining Arcanine on 2/16/2011 12:56:00 AM , Rating: 2
Android can be recompiled for x86 and most Android software runs on the Dalvik virtual machine. Intel could probably run 99% of what most Android users would run on ARM on x86.

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive

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