Intel brought the 22nm architecture to the desktop in the form of “Ivy Bridge” back on April the 29th 2012. The transition to 22nm represented a large step forward in power efficiency and a modest step forward in clock-per-clock performance. Now Intel is promising that this transition will hit their Atom processors by the end of this year and this is particularly exciting news for mobile and tablet users. Intel Atom processors are designed from the ground up with power consumption in mind, they have to be incredibly power efficient for the sake of battery life and that often means Intel have to reduce clock speeds to get the right balance. However, the introduction of 22nm means that Intel can now hit these same power envelopes with much more performance. As well as being able to offer lower-powered options to really squeeze the absolute maximum battery life out of these 22nm tri-gate Atom System-on-Chips (SoCs).
However, as we wait for these new 22nm Atom SoCs to be released, Intel has just announced three new SoCs based the 32nm Clover Trail+ Atom micro-architecture at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) event in Spain. The Intel Atom Z2580, Z2560 and Z2520 are the three new SoCs to hit the market.
Intel are claiming double the compute performance and three times the graphical capabilities over the previous generation of mobile Atom processors – all while maintaining “competitive low power”. New features include support for 16 Megapixel (MP) image sensors, burst mode capabilities capturing 8MP images at 15 frames per second (FPS), hardware acceleration for 1080p video encoding and decoding at 30 FPS and enhanced High Dynamic Range (HDR) capabilities – something Intel needed to include because Nvidia’s Tegra 4 is also promising this. However, integrated LTE support didn’t materialise although Intel does offer the 4G capable XMM 7160 modem. As an extra Intel is also providing real-time facial recognition technology as part of the Clover Trail+ platform.
Lenovo’s IdeaPhone K900 will be the first phone to boast Intel’s flagship Z2580 Atom SoC on its 5.5″ high resolution display. More products using these SoCs have been promised by ASUS and ZTE, while Intel claims Android tablets will be powered by these in the not-so-distant future.
The main story from the even though is Intel’s Merrfield 22nm Atom SoCs which Intel will start producing this year. If ARM progress is anything to go by, Intel are really going to need the lowered power and improved performance that the 22nm process has to offer. Add to that the fact Intel is already having a hard time encouraging App and OS developers to opt for x86 instruction set support – the pathway to mobile success for Intel looks long and obstacle filled.
Production begins in late 2013 meaning finished products will not arrive until Q2 of 2014. By then Nvidia’s Tegra 4 and Samsung’s Exynos 5 Octa (eight core) SoCs will already be established in the market. Best of luck Intel – you’re going to need it.