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Intel's Computex 2010 Keynote: Atom Everywhere

Posted on 10th Jun 2010 at 16:21 by Richard Swinburne with 13 comments

Richard Swinburne
In the middle of Computex 2010, Intel unleashed four hours of keynotes and briefing meetings - it covered a lot of ground. While some of it was padding, there were quite a few highlights, including talk about Sandy Bridge, wireless displays and of course, Atom.

Sales are fine and despite the global economic downturn, Intel claimed PC and laptop sales were pretty consistent. It put this down to the fact once you have one, it becomes a necessity, so should it fail or become obsolete you have to buy a new one. While we simply can't do without our gaming PC, laptop, smartphone and HTPC does does Intel's belief really work for more "disposable" products such as netbooks? Or will it be replaced with a different form factor?

Wireless Display (WiDi for short) will be integrated into some laptops in the next round of refreshes. The technology is there, and the WiDi TV receivers are quite cheap and nimble, and multiple laptops can be hooked up to a single receiver as well.

Sandy Bridge will "knock your socks off" apparently. Intel claims it's revolutionary not evolutionary, as it balances CPU, graphics and power consumption in a single 1.12Bn transistor monolithic 32nm chip.

Despite being a quad-core, eight-thread CPU, just like current generation CPUs, Intel claims we should be seeing "40-50 per cent performance improvements with Sandy Bridge".

Intel's Computex 2010 Keynote: Atom Everywhere Thoughts on Intel's Computex 2010 Keynote
Click to enlarge

The integrated GPU in Sandy Bridge should be taken seriously, says Intel, as it claimed it's as fast as a "current mainstream discrete [mobile] graphics chip." We saw Mass Effect 2 running at "full detail levels" at 1,280 x 720 and yes, from a distance it looked smooth, but we weren't enlightened with performance numbers or DirectX support level details.

One impressive and funny demo Intel showed to demonstrate Sandy Bridge CPU-GPU performance was real-time facial recognition, rendering and animating an avatar mapped to the face of an actor. Ultimately our cynicism got the better of us, though: there's only one thing this technology would really be used for: men pretending to be women in online gaming.

Some codenames for you: Yule River is the mobile platform of Sandy Bridge, due mid-next year. Oak Trail products will arrive Q1 next year, and it's being positioned between Moorestown (the SoC targeted at phones) and Pine Trail (the full Atom / netbook platform).

The plethora of codenames is due to the fact Intel sees Atom as having a part to play in a huge range of devices, from traditional laptops and netbooks to phones, TVs and all kinds of portable internet tablets. Whatever gadget suits your life style, you should be able to find it. That concept might be is exciting, but it also results in a bewildering array of possibilities: how do you know what's right for you? Surely this is why people trust brands and easy, directed choices (Apple products and its one size fits all).

Intel's Computex 2010 Keynote: Atom Everywhere Thoughts on Intel's Computex 2010 Keynote
Click to enlarge

Intel had a go at software developers for not being conscientious enough to understand how to develop for low power CPUs. It explained that often the software was wasting CPU cycles or it kept asking "are you asleep?" instead of just remaining idle and letting it sleep.

We had some hands-on time with MSI's Wind Pad that uses the latest Moorestown CPU and a full fat Windows 7 Starter, and promptly came to one conclusion: don't buy a Windows 7 tablet. Put up against an iPad and it looks plain awful.

MeeGo seems to be shaping up well, though. We tried the Alpha it worked nicely, even in its early state.

Intel's Computex 2010 Keynote: Atom Everywhere Thoughts on Intel's Computex 2010 Keynote

Intel's Computex 2010 Keynote: Atom Everywhere Thoughts on Intel's Computex 2010 Keynote
Now Intel MeeGo's other interface is a bit more Windows 7 Phone Series. Click to enlarge

MeeGo is a cross between PS3's left-right/up-down menu scrolling and Android's widgets, but with an option for iPad style icons instead at the touch of a button. The UI already has all the wizzy smooth transition animations people love though, which is a good start.

13 Comments

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Autti 11th June 2010, 05:08 Quote
They seem to like sandy bridge at least. Poor AMD, if it really is 40-50% faster (or even 20-30%) how on earth will bulldozer compare.
rickysio 11th June 2010, 06:51 Quote
You can't bulldoze sand.

Perhaps that's the motivation for the code names.
mi1ez 11th June 2010, 10:19 Quote
You can bulldoze sand. Very effectively! :P
rickysio 11th June 2010, 10:55 Quote
http://forum.coolaler.com/showthread.php?t=240578

Damn it Intel, you've let me down.
Gradius 11th June 2010, 17:24 Quote
WTF? I want the most faster processor ever everytime, and now what I see? A TOY cpu called atom! WTF?
Bakes 11th June 2010, 23:19 Quote
Did you read the article?

Atom is only referenced three times in the article, and once was only in reference to a codename.

Sandy Bridge, the latest chip that's aimed at enthusiasts was mentioned twice as much.
wuyanxu 12th June 2010, 00:43 Quote
despite Intel's attempts, i still want a Sandy Bridge i7 CPU without integrated GPU. we'll never use the integrated GPU, so why should we pay for it in the material cost and motherboard backplate space?
RichCreedy 12th June 2010, 14:07 Quote
because some people will buy a sandybridge to get them by, or fall back on should a discrete graphics card fail
Bakes 12th June 2010, 14:18 Quote
Rich, it's still only good for certain people. Your typical enthusiast/gamer will disable the IGP the first time he turns on the motherboard, so it's wasted die space, pumping up the price.
capnPedro 12th June 2010, 15:17 Quote
Unless manufacturers get their act together and allow people with discrete graphics cards to utilise the IGP as a dedicated on-die physics processor. Or run a Folding client on it.
Bakes 12th June 2010, 15:46 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by capnPedro
Unless manufacturers get their act together and allow people with discrete graphics cards to utilise the IGP as a dedicated on-die physics processor. Or run a Folding client on it.

I'm not sure that's 'getting their act together'. Dedicated physics calculations (as in PhysX) only run where nVidia wants them to, so it's not Asus/Gigabyte/MSI's problem if nVidia don't want them to. Folding, it wouldn't be a GPGPU, Intel wants people to use the cpu for that, remember?

Neither of those suggestions have any chance of being reality, based on the fact that Intel wants physics calculations to happen on the CPU, as part of their business plan.

Honestly, the gpu would be a waste of space.
capnPedro 12th June 2010, 15:52 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bakes
I'm not sure that's 'getting their act together'. Dedicated physics calculations (as in PhysX) only run where nVidia wants them to

It would be the exact definition of getting their acts together - an open standard that all manufacturers can follow. **** PhysX. PhysX runs on top of CUDA. CUDA (although not free as in speech) is a free standard that anyone can implement. It should be possible to get PhysX running on an Intel IGP. You could even run it on an ATI GPU if it weren't for the fact they're too busy working on StreamSDK and Brook+.

To be honest, Nvidia, ATI and Intel should just implement OpenCL.
Bakes 12th June 2010, 16:11 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by capnPedro
It would be the exact definition of getting their acts together - an open standard that all manufacturers can follow. **** PhysX. PhysX runs on top of CUDA. CUDA (although not free as in speech) is a free standard that anyone can implement. It should be possible to get PhysX running on an Intel IGP. You could even run it on an ATI GPU if it weren't for the fact they're too busy working on StreamSDK and Brook+.

To be honest, Nvidia, ATI and Intel should just implement OpenCL.

OpenCL works fine on all nVidia cards, all ATI cards and all x86 processors.

Intel has no incentive to running GPGPU tasks on it's CPUs. Intel's core business is CPUs, and it's trying to convince people that they shouldn't be using GPUs for GP things. There's no point having a graphics card filling up part of your CPU if it's only good for stuff that could have been done on a dedicated GPU or the part of the CPU that would have taken up that space.
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