Intel Rebrands Its Low-Power Atom Chips for Mobile Devices

Gone will be the confusing mashups of numbers, replaced by the easier-to-understand and remember Atom x3, x5 and x7 names.

Intel logo

Intel wants to make it easier for consumers to understand the low-power Atom processors that are in their mobile devices.

The company is rebranding the processors to give users a clearer idea of the capabilities of the chips, which can be found in smartphones, tablets and low-power notebooks. The rebranding comes just days before the onset of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, which starts next week and where the company is expected to unveil new Atom systems-on-a-chip (SoCs).

The change in branding will come with the next generation of the processors, according to the chip maker. Those could include new 14-nanometer "Cherry Trail" chips and Atom SoFIA SoCs that will include an integrated wireless modem.

The new naming scheme will be similar to that used by Intel with its Core processors—with the i3, i5 and i7—for PCs. Intel introduced the Core brand in 2009.

Intel officials said the Atom processors will be branded according to their capabilities in good (Atom x3), better (x5) and best (x7) rankings. The Atom x3 chips will offer basic capabilities for smartphones, tablets and phablets, while the x5 will offer more features for greater performance. The x7 will be the flagship Atom family line and will offer the highest levels of performance and capabilities.

The rebranding will be a welcome change. Currently, Atom SoCs come with such confusing names as the Atom Z3570, Z3740 and Z3770, which offer varying degrees of capabilities and speeds but are difficult to distinguish through the naming scheme.

The new branding for Atom comes as Intel looks to extend its x86-based architecture across a growing number of devices and PC form factors. Intel famously misread the rapid adoption of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, and under CEO Brian Krzanich has ramped up efforts not only to establish a foothold in a mobile device space dominated by ARM and its chip-making partners, but also to expand the form factors in the PC space.

So, along with tablets, phablets and smartphones, Intel also is supplying chips for traditional PCs and new devices like Ultrabooks, two-in-ones (that can be used as either a notebook or tablet) and ultra-thin systems, all of which are powered by various Atom and Core processor models. At the same time, Intel also still has chips that carry the Pentium and Celeron names for more affordable systems.

In 2013, the chip maker introduced the Quark family of processors aimed at the burgeoning Internet of things (IoT) and wearable device markets. Quark SoCs are even smaller and more power-efficient than the Atom processors. Quark processors have been used as the basis for IoT and wearable development boards like Edison and Galileo.

At the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show last month, Krzanich showed off the Curie compute module, which is the size of a coat button and includes not only Intel's new, highly energy-efficient 32-bit Quark SE SoC, but also a Bluetooth low-energy radio and a low-power sensor hub that can help the module track activities.