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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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By psychobriggsy on 2/17/2011 7:20:53 AM , Rating: 2
Facts! Where are the facts - nothing is known about Medfield outside of Intel.

What is known is that NVIDIA have a quad-core Tegra coming out that can beat a 2GHz Core 2 Duo (admittedly in self-performed benchmarking). We know that Atom currently is significantly slower than a Core 2 Duo at 1GHz, never mind 2GHz, so we should be wary of what Intel's marketing is saying, and stop falling for it like DallasTexas has done.

Standby power means the cores are clock gated - you could have a fricking Nehalem core in there and the standby time would still look good. That's because it's not doing anything. Of course every time it gets woken up to process an event it will use power. ARM SoCs are going to be including low power cores (Cortex A5) for this alongside the high power cores (Cortex A9, A15).

The real facts are that ARM offers a product in every phone segment, provided by dozens of manufacturers competing with each other, resulting in a healthy competitive ecosystem. Intel will have to eat its lovely high margins in order to compete - although that's better than zero income. In the end it will get into some Windows 7 tablets, and that's about it.


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