Moorestown: The Two Chip Solution That Uses Five Chips

Intel calls Moorestown a two-chip solution. That’s the Lincroft SoC and the Langwell IO Hub. Intel says there’s no architecture limitation for splitting these two up, it was just a way of minimizing risk. You put the bulk of the 3rd party technologies in the Langwell IO Hub and keep the important, mostly Intel controlled components in Lincroft. This is still the first SoC that Intel is going to market with, so splitting the design into two chips makes sense. The followon to Moorestown, codenamed Medfield, will integrate these two once Intel is comfortable.


The 45nm, 140M transistor Lincroft die

Lincroft houses the CPU, GPU and memory controller and is built on Intel’s 45nm process. This isn’t the same 45nm process used in other Intel CPUs, instead it’s a special low power version that trades 6 - 8% performance for a 60% reduction in leakage. The tradeoff makes sense since the bulk of these chips will run at or below 1.5GHz. And by the way, it’s now called the Atom Z600 series.

Transistor Comparison
  Intel Atom Z5xx Series Intel Atom Z6xx Series NVIDIA Tegra 2
Manufacturing Process 45nm 45nm 40nm
Transistor Count 47M 140M 260M*
*Tegra 2 is a single chip solution, Intel hasn't provided specs for Langwell

Langwell, now known as the Intel Platform Controller Hub (PCH) MP20, holds virtually everything else. It’s got an image processing core that supports two cameras (1 x 5MP and 1 x VGA), USB 2.0 controller, HDMI output (1080p) and a NAND controller that can support speeds of up to 80MB/s. The whole chip is managed by a 32-bit RISC core.

Langwell is a 65nm chip built at TSMC. TSMC has existing relationships with all of the IP providers for the blocks inside Langwell, so making it at TSMC is a sensible move (a temporary one though, with Medfield Intel will integrate all of this).


Langwell (left) and Lincroft (right)

While Lincr, err, Atom Z600 and the Intel PCH MP20 are enough for a traditional system, they are not enough for a smartphone. You need wireless radios, that’s one chip for WiFi and one for 3G support. You need something to handle things like power management, charging the battery and controlling the touch screen. That’s an additional chip, called Briertown.

We’re up to four chips at this point, but you need at least one more. While modern day smartphone SoCs ship with on-package memory, Intel doesn’t yet support that. Obviously it’s not impossible to do, Marvell, TI, Qualcomm and Samsung do it with all of their SoCs. Look inside Apple’s iPad and you won’t see any DRAM chips, just a Samsung part number on the application processor package. Intel doesn’t have the same experience in building SoCs and definitely not in integrating memory so it’s not a surprise we don’t have that with Moorestown. Unfortunately this means a smartphone manufacturer will need as many as five discrete chips to support Moorestown.

Platform Size
  Moorestown
CPU + Chipset 387 mm2
Total Platform Area 4200 mm^2
SoC Package Size 13.8 mm x 13.8 mm x 1.0 mm
PCH Package Size 14 mm x 14 mm x 1.33 mm

And now we know why Intel has been showing off its extremely long form factor prototype all this time:

The World Changes, MIDs Ahead of Their Time Aava to the Rescue: An iPhone Sized Moorestown Platform
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  • teohhanhui - Thursday, May 06, 2010 - link

    But they'll be showcasing it on their Moblin/Meego which is Linux. Won't shoot themselves in the feet, will they? Reply
  • rahvin - Thursday, May 06, 2010 - link

    And if it only runs on Moblin, only with specific kernel versions, uses a binary blob driver and isn't maintained it will be the same story as GMA500 all over again. Reply
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, May 06, 2010 - link

    As pointed out, plenty of other Android phones are using the same graphics. And I haven't heard a lot of complaints about lack of drivers for the Droid/N1/etc. Reply
  • elisha.pan - Wednesday, May 05, 2010 - link

    GMA500 has nothing with the Intel GMA series, but name. It is exactly the same with PowerVR SGX 535. Reply
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, May 05, 2010 - link

    This is the same GPU used in almost every other smart phone on the market, except that it's designed to be clocked up to twice as fast. It's not going to run Crysis *rolls eyes* but it's more than capable of doing everything a smart phone/internet tablet will need to do. Reply
  • ekul - Wednesday, May 05, 2010 - link

    exactly. without open source drivers for the graphic any development of meego outside of intel will never go anywhere. One of the reasons I bought my current netbook is the gma 950 has excellent open source drivers that just work.

    Open source development moves fast. Closed source binaries get left behind because they can't keep up with the release schedule. The current gma 500 drivers already need a kernel several versions old as well as an old X server. How many releases is meego going to miss?
    Reply
  • ViRGE - Wednesday, May 05, 2010 - link

    I can see why Anand thinks it's an interesting product, but based on his article I don't think Intel is quite there.

    The current need for 5 chips is going to be a problem no matter how Intel dresses things up, and if all phones end up looking like the design shown I wouldn't be surprised if the consumer reaction was tepid - a phone of that size is still pretty big. The video playback time is also going to be a problem when it comes to spec sheets (I doubt the real-world impact will be as huge), but OEMs like their spec sheets and consumers aren't too far off either. Just looking like it'll perform poorly there may be enough.

    The other issue is the reliance on an OS. At this point it seems like no one really wants another OS. Most people around here seemed to be more relieved than concerned when Palm went under. With BlackBerryOS, IPhoneOS, Android, and WinCE, there seems to be as many OSes as the market can reasonably handle. Moblin/MeeGo may be necessary for the hardware right now, but I see no reason to expect that it's going to be properly developed for consumer use like the above OSes were. Unless Intel can land RIM/Apple, they need to get Android up to par on Moorestown and they need to do it yesterday.

    Ultimately I think it's going to Medfield that's a proper ARM competitor. With fewer chips it will fit in to traditional designs, and with any luck Intel will be a node ahead of its competition on the manufacturing process. It won't solve the current OS reliance, but it'll put them in a better position than Moorestown does.
    Reply
  • ET - Wednesday, May 05, 2010 - link

    Ultimately I think that most people don't care about the OS. The OS mainly matters in terms of applications available for it, and it's a pain for developers to address many OS's, but also an opportunity for new developers to carve their niche.

    That said, Anand did mention that Intel is making Android available for this new platform, which should be good enough.
    Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Wednesday, May 05, 2010 - link

    It's much closer than expected. There were quite frequent comments that thought it wouldn't even reach 5 hour on standby! Having a lot of knowledge and doing a bit research helps of course. Glad they can be roughly on par though.

    It's likely the idle power can't be achieved without optimized OSes. Even if you can run Windows on it, what's the point when you won't have the battery life for it? Windows uses too much on keeping legacy support and its too bloated for idle power under 50mW.

    Platform approach is the key to low power on Moorestown.
    Reply
  • piroroadkill - Wednesday, May 05, 2010 - link

    I'm not sold. ARM has been more efficient for a lot longer, even though it's still being made on commonly larger processes than current Intel CPUs. All smartphones are ARM anyhow, so I don't see the advantage in having x86 in this space Reply

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