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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 Da W on 2/15/2011 1:35:18 PM , Rating: 2
Instruction set means nothing. I've said it many times here, the X86 decoder footprint gets smaller every generation. At 32nm it's almost negligible. The rest of the CPU design can be anything the chip maker wants it to be.

And Intel has been the manufacturer of the best performing CPUs on the planet for 30+ years (except 2003-2006 when AMD had the crown). ARM design only just implemented dual-core out-of-order execution, most are built on 40nm still.

I believe Intel can pull it off. The problem is the OS, and even if Android runs on x86, will all the apps run too? And do you really need all that speed for a PHONE? When i want speed, i use my desktop.


RE: Good article except for the drama
By vol7ron on 2/15/2011 1:49:09 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
And Intel has been the manufacturer of the best performing CPUs on the planet for 30+ years

You mean to the mass market, as there are other processors that outperform Intel's, as well as processors not available to the public.

quote:
And do you really need all that speed for a PHONE? When i want speed, i use my desktop.

I think you're missing the effect of speed. Speed is also a reduction of power consumption. Less time = less energy. Not to mention, that phones today still aren't great at multitasking, perhaps one day you can keep many apps fully running in the background instead of using save-states.


By TeXWiller on 2/15/2011 4:06:23 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
quote:
And Intel has been the manufacturer of the best performing CPUs on the planet for 30+ years
You mean to the mass market, as there are other processors that outperform Intel's, as well as processors not available to the public.
Lets limit that to the x86 markets and add the time of the race to the first gigahertz as a nod to the AMD camp.


RE: Good article except for the drama
By zozzlhandler on 2/15/2011 4:11:36 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, all the Android apps *will* run on an x86 Android phone, because they are all written in Java, and executed on a VM, not on the native processor.


By psychobriggsy on 2/17/2011 7:22:28 AM , Rating: 2
Apart from all the apps written using the NDK, which is C/C++/assembler, that is.


RE: Good article except for the drama
By Calin on 2/17/2011 6:08:49 AM , Rating: 2
The x86 decoder footprint becomes larger every generation. However, this increase is much smaller than the increase in the rest of the processor. So, while the x86 decoder might be twice as big as the one in Pentium 4, the total transistor count may be ten times that, so the x86 decoder looks to be 5 times smaller.
On the other side, if you half the size of the x86 decoder but decrease the transistor count of the processor 10 times (like in Atom), you end up with the decoder occupying 5 times the percentage area.


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