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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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Not optimistic
By Guspaz on 2/15/2011 2:15:10 PM , Rating: 2
Intel talks a good talk, but their track record is pretty poor. Their Atom parts have largely languished for years since being introduced without seeing any significant upgrades since (most of their updates have been chipset-related, or stuff like moving GPUs on-die, which didn't help the CPU power requirements any).

ARM's products are substantially better than Intel's when it comes to power/performance ratios.

In early 2008, Intel introduced the Atom 230. It was a single-core processor running at 1.6GHz, with a TDP of 4W, and the chipset adds a whole bunch to that. In early 2010, the Atom N450 integrated the GPU, producing a total CPU/chipset power requirement of 6.5W. This is a bit lower than the early Atom processors.

Modern dual-core Cortex A9 processors from ARM will outperform either the 230 or the N450, and have a total TDP of 2W. Intel is still using more than three times the power to deliver the same performance. Heck, Intel's own ULV processors have largely gutted the market formerly dominated by Atom. They consume a lot more power, but still offer a better power/performance ratio.

Intel just has not proven that they can produce a sufficiently power efficient processor to compete with ARM. It's not unreasonable to assume that they'll eventually get there, but early claims about dominating the market are a bit premature.




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