Intel Unveils Next-Generation Low-Power Atom SoCs

The new line, which includes 14nm "Cherry Trail" chips and is aimed at smartphones, tablets, phablets and notebooks, will be introduced at the MWC show.

Intel logo

Intel may continue to trail rival ARM in the important mobile chip market, but company officials believe that a broad array of product offerings and strong partnerships with OEMs and other chip manufacturers will give the company the leverage it needs to gain a stronger foothold in the mobile market.

At the Mobile World Congress 2015 show March 2, the world's largest chip maker is rolling out its latest generation of low-power Atom processors for tablets, smartphones, phablets and notebooks, armed with a new branding scheme and improved connectivity technologies.

Intel is highlighting its engineering and manufacturing prowess as a way to differentiate the new of x86 chips. The line stretches across mobile systems and connects edge devices to networks that in turn link them to servers and storage appliances in the data center, and connect the cloud to the data center.

"We're establishing a foundation that is solid and that we'll build on," Aicha Evans, vice president and general manager of Intel's Platform Engineering Group, said during a conference call with journalists and analysts before the show in Barcelona kicked off. "It's an end-to-end play. There are not a lot of companies that will be able to play in this space at this level. There are not a lot of companies in this space that have such a broad collection of assets."

Evans said that with the new Atom SoCs coupled with the Core m processor, Intel is offering "a broad and deep portfolio that goes after all mobile platforms."

Intel was late to the mobile game, missing out on the rise in popularity of smartphones and tablets. This had a negative impact on the chip maker's dominant PC processor business and gave ARM such a head start that most mobile devices run on ARM’s chip architecture. Under CEO Brian Krzanich, Intel has aggressively pursued the mobile space, accelerating the development of the low-power Atom systems-on-a-chip (SoCs), creating partnerships with chip manufacturers like Rockchip and Spreadtrum as a means of speeding delivery of Intel products into the market and driving new notebook form factors—such as Ultrabooks and two-in-ones. This works to broaden the types of systems that can run on Intel processors.

Intel also reached it goal last year of having more than 40 million Intel-based tablets ship—46 million, to be more exact—though it came at a cost as the vendor paid subsidies to OEMs to entice them to use the processors.

Now the company is unveiling its latest lineup of Atom chips, which include the first manufactured with the 14-nanometer process and with the latest Intel wireless modems. It also sports the new branding for the Atom family, which Intel previewed last week. The chips will be branded according to their capabilities, ranked as good (Atom x3), better (x5) and best (x7). This should be a welcome change from the current system, which includes such products as the Atom Z3570, Z3740 and Z3770, which offer varying degrees of capabilities and speeds but are difficult to distinguish by name.