Samsung executives have made official what has been rumored for a couple of weeks—the tech giant will use Intel chips in one of its popular Galaxy Tab 3 tablets rather than an ARM-based processor.
Samsung on June 3 announced two new versions of its Galaxy Tab 3—an 8-inch model and a 10.1-inch device, the latter of which will run on a low-power dual-core Atom processor from Intel. The two tablets complement a seven-inch Galaxy Tab 3 device the vendor already sells.
The new devices, which will compete with Apple’s iPad tablet, both run the Google Android 4.2 Jelly Bean mobile operating system, support both WiFi and 3G wireless technologies, and also support a range of Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks.
A key differentiator between the two—beyond the screen size—is the choice of systems-on-a-chip (SoCs). Samsung traditionally has used ARM-designed chips, either its own products or those from Qualcomm, and will use a 1.5GHz dual-core ARM processor in the 8-inch tablet. However, with the 10.1 will run a 1.6GHz Atom chip, giving Intel a significant boost in its efforts to chip away at ARM’s dominant hold on the rapidly growing mobile device space.
Samsung officials said both the 8- and 10.1-inch Galaxy Tab 3 devices will be available worldwide this month, though they gave no information on pricing, according to Reuters.
ARM designs chips and licenses those designs to the likes of Samsung, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and Nvidia, which then put their own solutions onto the SoCs and sell them. At the Computex show in Taiwan June 3, ARM unveiled its new Cortex-A12 silicon design aimed at midrange tablets and smartphones, which officials expect will grow from 200 million devices sold this year to 580 million in 2015.
Intel’s x86-based processors have long dominated the PC and server spaces, but those are maturing markets, and Intel officials for several years have been driving down the power consumption of their chips in hopes of convincing OEMs to use those SoCs in their product designs.
Up to this point, there are about a dozen smartphones and 15 or so tablets that run on Intel chips, but the bulk of those are sold overseas. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 is the most significant design win for the giant chip maker.
Intel officials are expecting more wins later this year and into 2014. The company at the Computex show is rolling out the first of its Core “Haswell” chips, which are aimed at notebooks and tablets and offer improvements in performance, power efficiency and graphics. Later this year, the company plans to begin releasing Atom SoCs based for tablets and smartphones based on the new “Silvermont” microarchitecture, which Intel officials said brings their offerings on par with ARM in power efficiency and performance.
While Intel may be partnering with Samsung now, it also competes with the tech vendor. Not only do both sell chips in the mobile space, but Samsung is expected to leverage the ARM architecture to compete with Intel in the growing low-power microserver space, an area of keen interest among ARM and many of its partners, including Calxeda, Marvell Technologies and Applied Micro.