Intel launches Atom smartphone chips

May 6, 2010 | 08:08

Tags: #android #atom #atom-smartphone #atom-z6xx #intel-architecture #intel-atom #intel-smartphone #slate #smartphone #soc #tablet

Companies: #intel #meego

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.
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