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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 vol7ron on 2/15/2011 1:42:44 PM , Rating: 2
But x86 still includes many legacy instruction sets that are performance/power speed bumps.

It would be nice if we could get off these in the next 10 years.


By PrinceGaz on 2/15/2011 9:02:52 PM , Rating: 3
x86 may have loads of legacy instructions, but with each processor generation, they become less significant.

If old instructions really mattered, would AMD still include support for all the 3DNow! instructions in their latest chips, despite it not being used by anything significant for years (or indeed used for very much at all when it might have made much difference?)

With each generation, and the process-shrinks which are included, legacy support does quite literally become that much smaller, to the point where the cost of supporting the decoding of legacy instructions is negligible, so rather than go down the Pentium Pro route and throwing out all backward compatibility, the sensible approach of keeping hardware support for everything from the start has been adopted.

Even if OS support for 16-bit applications from those eras is being dropped, for the sake of possibly a hundred thousand or so transistors (the total number in the last 16-bit only x86 CPU, the 80286, of which only a small fraction were used for instruction decoding even then) out of hundreds of millions in modern CPUs, and the actual number needed will be much less than that as all they need to do is instruction decoding, it would be madness to remove them.

I'd be the first to agree the x86 instruction-set has grown into a monster which looks like it will never be tamed as it grows ever more extensions, but the little you could gain by removing support for all the oldest instructions will be wiped out many times by the next bunch of SSE instructions.


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