Intel really took its time in entering the mobile device market giving ARM chip manufacturers such as Qualcomm, NVIDIA, Samsung the limelight for the past few years during the boom of Android smartphones and tablets. In this world, Intel finds itself in the role of AMD, the underdog, as it tries to gain traction against chips people have already known and trusted over the years.
Currently in the scene is the Intel Atom Saltwell chip powering just a handful of devices by less-popular Android smartphone OEM players like Acer, Lenovo, ZTE, Motorola, Xolo, and Lava; and Android tablet manufacturers such as Lenovo, Coby, Ramos, and ASUS. Still testing the waters perhaps?
What’s unknown to a lot of people is that their current system-on-a-chip (SoC) can keep-pace with ARM-based SoCs a generation higher. They’re always currently a generation lower but the performance is not.
As an example, their 2GHz single-core Medfield SoC (Atom Z2480) can go head-to-head with Qualcomm’s dual-core Snapdragon S4 chip as evident with the Motorola RAZR i versus the Motorola RAZR M, two similar phones having different but same-class chips.
In the tablet side, a prime example would be the recently-released ASUS Fonepad carrying a 1.6GHz single-core Intel Atom Z2460. Because of Intel Atom’s fast memory access speed, it gets a faster overall response time compared to the quad-core Nexus 7 and the dual-core Samsung Galaxy Tab 2.
With six energy states including an enhanced Intel Deep State, the 4270mAh battery on the ASUS Fonepad lasts longer than Nexus 7’s 4325mAh battery by two hours. Intel’s Burst Performance Technology can make this happen with a processor that smartly scales between a zero-power C6 standby mode, low, high, and max-frequency mode, according to demand.
But knowing Intel, they already have the next-generation Intel Atom processor for Android on hand. The smaller 22nm Silvermont chip will feature 3x higher performance and 5x lower power than its predecessor. It will be interesting how this will fare against the new-gen quad-core chips from ARM.
Time to shine for Intel and let’s just wait and see who will be the first premium brand that will carry a flagship phone that will run on an Intel Atom chip. And hopefully, the price will be competitive compared to its ARM brothers.