Intel Launches 64-Bit 'Merrifield' Atom SoC in Mobile Push

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2014-02-24

Intel Launches 64-Bit 'Merrifield' Atom SoC in Mobile Push

Intel is continuing to push forward with its mobile efforts, launching its newest low-power Atom chip for smartphones and tablets; announcing new and expanded partnerships with Lenovo, Asus, Dell and Foxconn; and talking up the growing adoption of its LTE platform at the Mobile World Congress 2014 show in Barcelona, Spain.

Intel executives at the event Feb. 24 spoke about the moves as evidence of Intel's growing capabilities in the crucial mobile device market, in which the chip maker for several years has been trying to gain traction. Currently, the bulk of smartphones and tablets are powered by low-power systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) designed by ARM and manufactured by the likes of Qualcomm, Samsung and Nvidia.

Intel has been looking to leverage its Atom platform to compete in the space, and has argued that with the release last year of the 22-nanometer "Silvermont" architecture, its SoCs meet or exceed many of the performance and power capabilities of the ARM designs. Now the challenge is to persuade more OEMs to make devices using the Intel technology and more end users to buy those devices. Intel officials said they expect OEMs to begin launching devices powered by the new 64-bit "Merrifield" chips in the second quarter.

In addition, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, in a recent question-and-answer session on Reddit, said that about 12 million Intel-based tablets were sold last year, and he expects that number to jump to 40 million this year.

"We are entering 2014 with a very competitive mobile portfolio spanning application processors and communications platforms that will only get stronger," Hermann Eul, vice president and general manager of Intel's Mobile and Communications Group, said in a statement. "Our new Atom processors for Android smartphones and tablets offer leading 64-bit performance and battery life, and the new 7260 platform gives the ecosystem a compelling LTE-Advanced experience."

At Mobile World Congress (MWC), Intel launched the quad-core Atom Z3480 Merrifield SoC, which officials argued offers the best performance and battery life in the mobile space. The new chip includes a PowerVR Series 6 graphics IP core from Imagination Technologies and Intel's new Integrated Sensor Solution, which is designed to manage sensor data from the device to ensure that applications remain "smart" and contextually aware, even when the device is in a low-power state.

The 2.13GHz Merrifield also can be paired with Intel's XMM 7160 Long Term Evolution (LTE) wireless platform. Eul told Cnet at the show that some of Samsung's Galaxy S 5 smartphones will ship with Intel's LTE chips inside.

"Sixty-four bit computing is moving from the desktop to the mobile device," Intel President Renee James said in a statement. "Intel knows 64-bit computing, and we're the only company currently shipping 64-bit processors supporting multiple operating systems today, and capable of supporting 64-bit Android when it is available."

Intel Launches 64-Bit 'Merrifield' Atom SoC in Mobile Push

Intel officials also released more details about the next generation of 64-bit Atom processors, code-named "Moorefield." The SoC will offer up to six cores and 2.3GHz of speed, improve graphics capabilities and support faster memory. It also will be optimized for Intel's upcoming 2014 LTE platform, the XMM 7260, which the company unveiled at MWC Feb. 24. The company expects devices leveraging the Moorehead chip to hit the markets in the second half of the year.

Intel officials outlined the growing OEM support for its mobile products. Lenovo, which already offers some Intel-based mobile devices—such as the K900 smartphone—will roll out more offerings this year, and both companies will dedicate engineers and other resources to create smartphones and tablets that touch on a range of market segments. Lenovo officials also said the company will incorporate Intel's LTE technology into some Ultrabooks and other systems.

Asus also will start selling a line of Intel-based smartphones and tablets this year. Like Lenovo, Asus already sells some Intel-powered products, such as the ZenFone and PadFone mini, and at MWC, the company introduced the Fonepad 7 LTE, which features an Atom SoC and Intel LTE connectivity. In addition, Dell, which already sells the Intel-based Venue device, this year will offer more Android and Windows tablets powered by Atom SoCs.

Foxconn, which manufactures many of the mobile devices on the market today, including iPhones from Apple, will produce a range of tablets this year that include Atom chips and Intel communications technologies.

Intel made other announcements at MWC. On the security front, the company introduced its free McAfee Mobile Security offering for devices running Google's Android mobile operating system. The package includes antivirus protection, a call/SMS filter, Web protection, anti-theft technology and contact backup capabilities.

The chip maker also announced the Integrated Native Developer Experience (Intel INDE), a beta productivity suite aimed at devices running both Android and Windows; the System Studio 2014 for embedded and systems development; and the XDK developer tool for apps based on HTML5.


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