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Lincroft (CPU/GPU SoC), branded as the Intel Atom Z6xx series processor (right), and Oak Trail (chipset), branded as the SM35 Express chipset (left), will be popping up on Windows tablets soon.  (Source: Intel)

Oak Trail packs full PCI bus support. It is compatible with Windows, Android, and other platforms.  (Source: Intel)

One of the early Oak Trail models will be the Asus EeePad Slider.  (Source: Intel)
Company claims it will "move faster than Moore's Law"

Intel Corp.'s (INTC) ultra-mobile efforts (smartphones, tablets), recently hit a slight speed bump with the abrupt departure of Anand Chandrasekher, senior vice president of mobility.

To begin to compete in the smartphone and tablet space, Intel needs to try to launch three major Intel Atom designs this year -- a high end tablet platform (Oak Trail) for Windows tablets; a lightweight tablet platform for Android and other lighter tablets (Moorestown); and a smartphone processor (Medfield).  The first of that trio -- Oak Trail officially landed today [press release].

The chip and chipset are shipping to OEMs now and will be popping up in consumer products next month.

I. Oak Trail -- Powering Long Await Windows Tablets

Lincroft and Oak Trail will be teaming up to provide something customers (or DailyTech readers, at least) have been clamoring for -- Windows tablets.  Currently Windows tablets are more rare than the Siberian Tiger, with just a handful of models -- such as the HP Slate from Hewlett-Packard, Comp. (HPQ) -- selling at low volumes.  Those older models are all built on older Atom processors.

With the new processor/chipset, Intel finally has a dedicated solution and the result is a processor that makes much better sense to put in a tablet than its previous offerings.  

Intel has announced that its partners in deploying Windows tablets include Evolve III, Fujitsu Limited, Lenovo, Motion Computing, Razer, and Viliv.

Intel says the new platform is also perfect for Android, Meego (its proprietary OS), and other operating systems.  While the unreleased Moorestown may be a better fit for those platforms, Lincroft/Oak Trail may be an acceptable stopgap solution.

II. What's Inside the Chip, Chipset?

i. The Chip

The new chipset Oak Trail accompanies the processor codenamed Lincroft, whose models will be branded under the name Intel Atom Z6xx (with "xx" denoting the product number).

The Z6xx series features an integrated GPU (the Intel Media Accelerator 600) and memory controller on its die.  In order to fit those components neatly on the die, Intel has shrunk the CPU by 60 percent in size.  The new CPU is clocked between 1.5 GHz (Z670) and 800 MHz (Z600).

Intel has not announced specific details on the built-in GPU, other than to say that it will be capable of playing high definition 1080p video.  Intel says the chip will also be more than capable of running media written in Adobe Flash media.

The entire chip is a second-generation architecture built on a 45 nm process.  The chip's memory controller supports both DDR and DDR2 RAM.

But perhaps the most important thing is that the entire platform draws between 3 watts (Z670) and 1.3 watts (Z600).  While not as low as ARM, these low figures are a much better effort and dramatically lower than Intel's previous offerings.  As you might notice, this is partly thanks to dropping the clock speed, but it's also largely driven by design improvements.

Intel uses two power technologies dubbed SpeedStep and Enhanced Deeper Sleep.  The former technology offers multiple voltage points to help match the voltage (and power) to the necessary processing speed.  The latter converts cache to system memory when the system goes inactive.  This provides a net power savings, as well.

The processor is a fanless design.

ii. The Chipset

The new chipset includes a PCI bus, a necessary component for Windows tablets.

Aside from the PCI bus, the chipset is pretty expectable -- it includes support for USB 2.0 and HDMI.  Intel has made it more "green" by ditching halogens and lead.

The new chipset's official branding is "SM35 Express".

III. What's Next?

Intel still has to get Moorestown and Medfield out the door.  But it also mentioned in its press release that it would be preparing a 32 nm refresh of Oak Trail, dubbed Cedar Trail.  Intel's press release seemed to indicate that Cedar Trail would be aimed at both netbooks and desktops.  It’s hard to imagine a decent Atom desktop, but it should be interesting to see what Intel cooks up.

With ARM firmly entrenched in the smartphone and tablet market, its ARM's game to lose.  Intel obviously brings a lot of marketing muscle to the table, but it remains to be seen in dedicated independent benchmarking how Lincroft-based tablets hold up battery-life wise.  

Intel claimed in its press release that it's moving "faster than Moore's Law".  It certainly needs to given how far behind in tablets and smart phones it is.

Intel also has to beware ARM creeping into netbooks.  Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) patience with it is waning, as evidenced by the company's decision to support ARM in future versions of Windows.  Intel has a narrow window of opportunity to prove its mettle.  Thus it will be very interesting to see how this new platform fares, both in real-world performance, and in sales.

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RE: Still two chips.
By Motoman on 4/12/2011 10:57:09 AM , Rating: 2

While it is true that the 3000 outperforms the 6310...the fact is that the Intel 3000 is still #156 on the list of mobile video chipsets.

The best that Intel has ever been able to produce is now ahead of some of AMD's cheapest options. Hooray.

RE: Still two chips.
By Mitch101 on 4/12/2011 11:02:59 AM , Rating: 2
Keep in mind Tablets have a resolution around 1024x600 and limited memory space so the majority of games are scaled down unlike a PC version. Most games are less than X-Box 1 level and that was a 733mhz-64meg machine.

The Intel GPU can drive that resolution and detail quite well while providing HD playback. Sure the AMD/NVIDIA offerings can drive more triangles or even more FPS but for the majority of the games that come on tablets its overkill for now.

RE: Still two chips.
By StevoLincolnite on 4/12/2011 11:29:12 AM , Rating: 4
If you buy a notebook/tablet/desktop and intend to GAME on Intel IGP's you are asking for disappointment, it's not all about Performance.

Intel's drivers for instance are pathetic, didn't it take them like 12+ months to bring TnL/Shader Model 3 to the Intel x3100?

Then game compatibility is like playing a game of chance, some games work extremely well, some... Not at all.
Some game won't even launch because it's not an ATI/nVidia based GPU.

Sandy Bridge was a step in the right direction, but it's still not nearly enough.

RE: Still two chips.
By SPOOFE on 4/12/2011 8:58:48 PM , Rating: 2
It always depends on the game. Torchlight, for example, runs amazingly well on Intel graphics, and looks really good doing it.

Some devs are smart and are designing their software for what is, by far, the largest hardware base. Some are stuck in the past and think their software can dictate the shape of hardware purchases.

"We’re Apple. We don’t wear suits. We don’t even own suits." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs

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