Intel Chips Could Power Upcoming Samsung Tablet: Reports

Benchmark tests and anonymous sources are fueling speculation that Samsung may tap Intel chips for its Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 device.

Intel may be taking a big step into the mobile device space.

According to reports, the next tablet from Samsung will be powered by an Intel Atom "Clover Trail" system-on-a-chip (SoC), with the top-tier mobile device maker opting to move away from the ARM-based chips from Nvidia and Texas Instruments that had been used in earlier models on the popular Galaxy Tab.

Rumors have been circulating about Samsung's possible shift for the past few days, with some reports referring to unnamed sources as saying that the upcoming Galaxy Tab 3 10.1, which could be unveiled at the 2013 Computex conference in the first week of June in Taiwan, will feature the Intel Atom chip, possibly the 1.6GHz version of the Clover Trail model.

On GFXBench, a Website that collects data about device performance, there is information about a tablet labeled "Samsung Santos 103"and given the product designation "GT-P5200" that runs Google's Android mobile operating system and is powered by an Intel Clover Trail chip.

The information from the GFXBench site fueled speculation about the upcoming 10.1-inch Galaxy tablet running on an Intel chip. Most recently, the VentureBeat Website reported May 24 that an unnamed "source familiar with the matter" confirmed the news. If true, it would mean that Samsung has chosen Intel's processor over other ARM-based SoCs, including its own Exynos mobile chips. According to a report in GigaOm, Samsung could be opting to conserve its own chips to be used in its Galaxy smartphones, which the company sells more of than tablets.

It would a huge boon for Intel, which has been working hard for the past few years to gain traction in the rapidly growing mobile device space. The bulk of tablets and smartphones currently run on low-power ARM-designed chips manufactured by Samsung, Qualcomm, Nvidia and others. Intel is trying to expand its reach in the tech industry and reduce its reliance on a global PC market that is seeing sales fall.

Intel has been driving up the performance and energy efficiency of its Atom and Core processors and embracing Android, hoping to convince more device makers to use its chips in their products. There are a dozen or so Intel-powered smartphones on the market from the likes of Lenovo and Lava International, but those are sold overseas. Likewise, only about 15 tablets are powered by Intel.

However, officials with the giant chip maker are hoping that changes starting later this year, when Intel begins rolling out its Core "Haswell" chips—which promise improved graphics (by up to 50 percent), performance (10 percent) and power efficiency—and Atom processors based on the new "Silvermont" microarchitecture that will eventually be found in everything from smartphones and tablets to embedded devices and low-power microservers.

Intel is expected to launch the 22-nanometer quad-core Haswell chips at the Computex show.

With Silvermont, Intel is expected to rival or exceed ARM's architecture in such areas as power efficiency and performance. "We're breaking the myth that ARM can do things that Intel cannot," Executive Vice President Dadi Perlmutter said earlier this month when talking about the microarchitecture.

Later this year and early 2014, Silvermont-based 22nm Atom chips will begin appearing in tablets (with "Bay Trail") and smartphones (with "Merrifield"). In addition, the microarchitecture will be found in "Avoton" for microservers and "Rangeley" for infrastructure systems such as networking switches and routers.