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,
-- selling at low volumes. Those older models are all built on older
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
Intel has announced that its partners in deploying Windows tablets
include Evolve III, Fujitsu Limited, Lenovo, Motion Computing, Razer, and
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
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.