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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 omnicronx on 4/12/2011 11:05:53 AM , Rating: 2
I'm not sure if this will be such a big issue for tablets. Remember the CPU, GPU and memory controllers are all on die, so its while its not completely integrated, the components that will draw a large bulk of the power are very similar.

You also need to remember this a 32nm part, while many ARM manufacturers are still using 65nm, and even 90nm in some older snapdragon based devices.(I believe all A8's are 65nm at the lowest and new dual core A9's are now using 45nm parts)

An ARM SOC would also likely require some kind of controller for a PCI bus in a Windows tablet too, which would minimize the difference even further.

While I do agree with you from a Smartphone standpoint, from a tablet standpoint they are not as bad off as you describe.

At least not for now ;) Who knows how much longer they will be able to keep the die size advantage.

RE: Still two chips.
By omnicronx on 4/12/2011 11:12:14 AM , Rating: 2
Hmm thought this was a 32nm part, mixed it up with Cedar Trail =/

"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke

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