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Intel launches Atom smartphone chips

Intel launches Atom smartphone chips

Intel's Atom Z6xx SoC platform promises 50x power reduction over previous editions - ARM beware.

Intel has announced its first real attempt to challenge ARM's dominance in the ultraportable and smartphone sectors - the Atom Z6xx series, codenamed Moorestown.

Based around the company's Lincroft system-on-chip platform, the Z6xx series departs from the usual Atom mold by reducing the power usage to a fraction of that used in the netbook and nettop oriented chips - with Intel promising a reduction to a fiftieth of the idle power draw.

As well as competing in the power stakes, Intel is hoping to give ARM a run for its money with performance: the Z6xx series will be made available in clock speeds reaching 1.5GHz for high-end smartphones and a whopping 1.9GHz for mobile Internet devices and slate-format systems. All models will feature 512K L2 cache and 24K data and 32K instruction L1 caches.

It's not all about the clockspeed, of course - and the SoC nature of the Z6xx series brings an integrated 400MHz graphics core compatible with OpenGL ES2.0, OpenGL 2.1, and OpenVG 1.1. The 2D side of things gets a boost too, with Intel claiming the chips support full hardware acceleration of MPEG4, H.264, WMV, and VC1 video at resolutions of up to 1080p - although, strangely, the graphics core will only run internal displays at up to 1366x768 LVDS or 1024x600 MIPI.

An integrated memory controller gives the Z6xx SoC support for 1GB of low-power DDR1 at 200MHz or 2GB of higher-performance DDR2 at 400MHz.

Interestingly, Intel has brought its Turbo Boost Performance Technology from its desktop processor range to the Z6xx, allowing the processor to automatically overclock for brief periods - providing, the company claims, a significant performance boost during intensive tasks without impacting the overall TDP.

Coupled with the Intel Platform Controller Hub MP20 - originally known as Langwell - which provides USB and audio support, the Z6xx is looking like a serious competitor to the ubiquitous ARM processors that power the overwhelming majority of smartphones on the market today.

Intel has promised full support for the MeeGo operating system that resulted from the merger of the company's own Moblin OS with Nokia's Maemo, as well as Google's Android platform. Noticeable in its absence from Intel's list of supported platforms is Windows, in either desktop or mobile variants.

While Intel is already offering the chips to OEMs and ODMs, the nature of the processors means that we won't be seeing them at retail - and, so far, no companies have announced products based around the Atom Z6xx series.

Do you think that the Atom Z6xx series could spell the end of ARM's dominance of the smartphone market, or are you more interested to see what could be made of a slate-format device powered by the chip? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

28 Comments

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V3ctor 6th May 2010, 09:24 Quote
If they put all of those chips in ONE die... it was great, as far as I know, this "Atom" needs 4 chips to operate...
mi1ez 6th May 2010, 09:41 Quote
SoC - System on Chip. It's all on one die and just needs a PCB/mobo for connectors, power circuitry, RAM etc.
crazyceo 6th May 2010, 09:43 Quote
This sounds great...with the mobile market clearly no longer exclusive to just phone use and everyone demanding so much more from smart devices, this has come at a great time. Should be very interesting.
V3ctor 6th May 2010, 09:49 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by mi1ez
SoC - System on Chip. It's all on one die and just needs a PCB/mobo for connectors, power circuitry, RAM etc.

"We’re up to four chips at this point, but you need at least one more. While modern day smartphone SoCs ship with on-package memory, Intel doesn’t yet support that. "

It's here http://www.anandtech.com/show/3696/intel-unveils-moorestown-and-the-atom-z600-series-the-fastest-smartphone-processor/3

(sorry for the link BT) :)
mi1ez 6th May 2010, 09:55 Quote
They're not going to move power management and IO directly onto the same die any time soon, as the power is best kept away and to move all the IO, the footprint of the chip would get bigger and bigger for all the connections (pins/lga)

IMO.
stonedsurd 6th May 2010, 10:01 Quote
Too big. And likely to be fairly power-hungry, despite what they say (although I live in constant hope).

Also, what exactly is the GPU core going to be? I hope they're smart and are using something from Imagination Tech, or they'll find they've shot a rather large hole in their foot.
perplekks45 6th May 2010, 10:48 Quote
I'd never say no to a faster chip for mobiles but I doubt that Intel's going to deliver.
wuyanxu 6th May 2010, 11:27 Quote
fail attempt by Intel technically, but will be a win due to their marketing department.


it will be more power hungry than ARM's IP's, it will be less flexible, it will make battery life shorter and it will be slower than standard Atom (thus can't run desktop grade x86 programs)

so, what's the point?
rickysio 6th May 2010, 12:40 Quote
Nokia, please do NOT put this in your next N9XX series, no matter how hard Intel begs you.
crazyceo 6th May 2010, 14:16 Quote
Yeah Nokia lets not put a better chip inside your smartphone please, I'm beggin you!

Intel doesn't need to beg for anything, that will be AMD you're thinking of!
rickysio 6th May 2010, 14:20 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by crazyceo
Yeah Nokia lets not put a better chip inside your smartphone please, I'm beggin you!

Intel doesn't need to beg for anything, that will be AMD you're thinking of!

Well, Intel might say, well since we collaborated for the MeeGo project, why not consider our chips?

The N900 was fat enough with OMAP3430 - and with Intel's 5 chip solution, the mind is boggled.
l3v1ck 6th May 2010, 14:38 Quote
It'll be interesting to see the actual power draw and performance levels when they actually go on sale.
rickysio 6th May 2010, 15:50 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by rickysio
Nokia, please do NOT put this in your next N9XX series, no matter how hard Intel begs you.

I take back my words. I went to read Anand's thoughtful editorial (as per normal) and now I'm salivating over how hard the N9XX series would ROCK if Intel's published figures are true.

Sub 2 seconds SunSpider benchmark? Thats roughly just 4 times slower than my Q6600! It even whoops Atom's ass!

Medfield will pwn even harder.
Arj12 6th May 2010, 16:40 Quote
I'm very interested as to when this will hit the mainstream market! Hopefully sometime soon =D
badman_mo007 6th May 2010, 16:48 Quote
the 1ghz snapdragon processor is more than enough for a smartphone, its the quality of the programming on software that counts.
rickysio 6th May 2010, 17:01 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by badman_mo007
the 1ghz snapdragon processor is more than enough for a smartphone, its the quality of the programming on software that counts.

If everyone thought like you, we'd be stuck with Intel 8080s even now.
SinnerG 6th May 2010, 20:37 Quote
Seems to be the reduction in power consumption is just going to be nullified by the number of supporting chips needed. While the likes of ARM are building everything into a single chip and calling it a true SoC, Intel throws everything off and calls that a SoC. Perhaps System-off-Chip?

Well anyway, if it indeed lives up to rumored numbers then it will be impressive to say the least.

I won't get an Intel-based smartphone if they existed though. I think there's enough Intel all over the place and we're still kind of stuff in x86 land. Bring back MIPS and here's to hoping ARM designs keep getting better.
rickysio 7th May 2010, 06:57 Quote
I won't say that Intel is bad. Intel brings with it its heavyweight class ability, which will hopefully force ARM to innovate even harder, bringing better and better products faster. Also, if Intel learns from the mobile space, desktop computing would benefit - sub 1W standby for the Core i7 platform?
Elledan 7th May 2010, 07:09 Quote
While Intel quoted some impressive power usage numbers while performing a number of common smartphone tasks including 3G calls, they didn't quote power usage numbers for the Javascript benchmark, or for running Quake III. Expectations are that this Atom chip collection will be an absolute powerhog, on-par with a netbook.

So it requires five chips including one memory chip, and you can't actually use its whole feature set unless you want to run out of juice in half an hour. Brilliant.
rickysio 7th May 2010, 10:12 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Elledan
While Intel quoted some impressive power usage numbers while performing a number of common smartphone tasks including 3G calls, they didn't quote power usage numbers for the Javascript benchmark, or for running Quake III. Expectations are that this Atom chip collection will be an absolute powerhog, on-par with a netbook.

So it requires five chips including one memory chip, and you can't actually use its whole feature set unless you want to run out of juice in half an hour. Brilliant.

http://anandtech.com/show/3696/intel-unveils-moorestown-and-the-atom-z600-series-the-fastest-smartphone-processor/12
Quoted figures. I wouldn't suspect the Javascript benchmark to use more than 1080p decoding, though!
Elledan 7th May 2010, 10:19 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by rickysio
http://anandtech.com/show/3696/intel-unveils-moorestown-and-the-atom-z600-series-the-fastest-smartphone-processor/12
Quoted figures. I wouldn't suspect the Javascript benchmark to use more than 1080p decoding, though!

It all depends on which parts of the chips are being used. If 1080p decoding is done purely by the DSP in the GPU, then power usage could be very limited as it's optimized silicon while the rest of the chips could be shut down. Remember that Intel is really good at power gating and shutting down small and big parts of its CPUs.

My guess is that for Javascript the CPU has to pick up the load, does it purely in software and will suffer a huge power penalty for it. I'd estimate 2.5W or more total. For the Q3 demo it could be as high as 4 or 5 Watt if not more.
rickysio 7th May 2010, 10:58 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Elledan
Quote:
Originally Posted by rickysio
http://anandtech.com/show/3696/intel-unveils-moorestown-and-the-atom-z600-series-the-fastest-smartphone-processor/12
Quoted figures. I wouldn't suspect the Javascript benchmark to use more than 1080p decoding, though!

It all depends on which parts of the chips are being used. If 1080p decoding is done purely by the DSP in the GPU, then power usage could be very limited as it's optimized silicon while the rest of the chips could be shut down. Remember that Intel is really good at power gating and shutting down small and big parts of its CPUs.

My guess is that for Javascript the CPU has to pick up the load, does it purely in software and will suffer a huge power penalty for it. I'd estimate 2.5W or more total. For the Q3 demo it could be as high as 4 or 5 Watt if not more.

Maybe, maybe not! I'd rather see actual figures than hear someone who isn't involved in the creation of this system speculate about figures. After all, what counts is cold hard facts, not guess work. Sorry if I offend you with this message.
Elledan 7th May 2010, 13:36 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by rickysio
Maybe, maybe not! I'd rather see actual figures than hear someone who isn't involved in the creation of this system speculate about figures. After all, what counts is cold hard facts, not guess work. Sorry if I offend you with this message.

Knock yourself out. I'm basically just repeating what Arstechnica reported. You can take it up with them if you want :p

http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/news/2010/05/intel-fires-opening-salvo-in-x86-vs-arm-smartphone-wars.ars
rickysio 7th May 2010, 14:26 Quote
Perhaps - but Intel's likely to tweak the power design once more, so perhaps miracles can happen? ;D
Skiddywinks 7th May 2010, 18:53 Quote
After reading the article on Anandtech, I have to say I am interested. They have made some real changes to Atom in order to get to Moorestown. Whether they actually manage to drop the power draw enough will be interesting to see.
HourBeforeDawn 10th May 2010, 02:25 Quote
I wonder overall how hot this will be against your face when you use it lol or at this point is when people make the move to a blue-tooth headset.
Bayaz 20th May 2010, 13:17 Quote
Soon the only difference between the a smartphone and a laptop will be the screen size.I can see a lot of people opting for smartphones in the future instead of laptops
wuyanxu 20th May 2010, 15:25 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bayaz
Soon the only difference between the a smartphone and a laptop will be the screen size.I can see a lot of people opting for smartphones in the future instead of laptops
and a lot of people opting for laptops instead of desktops.

then a lot of scientist opting for desktops instead of supercomputers :)
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