Final Words

Intel finally did it. After almost five years of talking about getting into mobile phone form factors, Intel went out and built a reference platform that proved what they've been saying was possible all along. Furthermore, Intel also finally landed a couple of partners who are willing to show their support by incorporating Medfield into their product portfolio. The releases are still a few months away at the earliest (possibly even longer for Motorola) but it's much better news than Intel has ever reported before in this space.

 


Medfield (left 1) vs. Moorestown (right 2)

The partnerships aren't out of pity either: Medfield is fast. I firmly believe had it been released a year ago it would have dominated the Android smartphone market from the very start. Even today it appears to deliver better CPU performance than anything on the market, despite only having a single core. GPU performance is still not as fast as what's in the A5 but it's competitive with much of the competition today, and I fully expect the dual-core version of Medfield to rectify this problem.

Based on the data Intel shared with us as well, the x86 power problem appears to be a myth - at least when it comes to Medfield. I'm still not fully convinced until we're able to test a Medfield based phone ourselves, but power efficiency at the chip level doesn't seem to be a problem.

Medfield and the Atom Z2460 are a solid starting point. Intel finally has a chip that they can deliver to the market and partners to carry it in. Intel also built a very impressive reference platform that could lead to some very interesting disruptions in the market.

While I'd like to say that Intel's Medfield team can now breathe a sigh of relief, their work is far from over - especially with more competitive ARM based SoCs showing up later this year. I'm really interested to see where this goes in the next 12 months...

ARM Compatibility: Binary Translation
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  • iwod - Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - link

    It was always only a matter of time before Intel get a x86 CPU with their superior manufacturing down to ARM SoC level.

    And since new science discovery is pushing Moores Law's Limit further and further away, intel has a much better fighting chance.

    The problem is how much does an Intel SoC cost compare to a reference design ARM made SoC in TSMC?
    Reply
  • Griswold - Thursday, January 12, 2012 - link

    Come back in a year and ask again... thats when this hits the shelves. Reply
  • Computer Bottleneck - Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - link

    Thank you for the article!

    Is there any chance we could see a teardown and analysis of the Intel Medfield reference design platform in the next 6 months?

    I think it would be very interesting to compare Intel's progress in chip integration over the next few years. (ie, Compare Medfield reference platform to Silvermont reference platform to Airmont reference platform, etc)
    Reply
  • jwcalla - Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - link

    I just got an ulcer thinking about how Android fragmentation is going to be taken to a whole new level.

    "There's already support for targeting both ARM and x86 architectures in the Android NDK so anything developed going forward should be ok so long as the developer is aware of x86."

    heh

    right

    That's sunshine and lollipops right there.

    It isn't enough to worry about 4,000 different CPUs and five active versions of the OS, but now we have to worry about two completely incompatible instruction sets too. All for the glory of producing apps that make no money on this platform. Suddenly iOS seems even more attractive.
    Reply
  • hechacker1 - Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - link

    It's only niche apps that require specific machine code that won't work. Otherwise the interpreted bytecode should just work.

    It's similar to when Apple moved from PPC to x86. You just had to recompile the program with the new toolchain and it would create a universal binary. Except here, it isn't even necessary to recompile the majority of the time.

    If anything, with the introduction of Android 4.0, we will finally have a common base for phones, tablets, and the one or two smart TVs. Sure it will require an upgrade for most users stuck on older unsupported Android versions, but that will come with time.
    Reply
  • nofumble62 - Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - link

    the difference now is all about peripheral and IO design. The ARM advantage has shrinken to almost zero. Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - link

    Shrunken. Sorry. Reply
  • dealcorn - Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - link

    ARM earned it's dominance of the mobile space with affordable, superior power efficiency. Now, Intel waltz's in with a 5 year old design for a space it used to know nothing about and it has superior power efficiency. Is there some reason to think this is in any way not a replay of the old Intel vs RISC story?

    It is hard to take ARM seriously when Intel's old design from a period when it was generally clueless is superior to what ARM markets today. However, we would not be here without ARM's historic contribution. Also, the market for garage door openers is not going away.
    Reply
  • aury - Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - link

    "superior power efficiency"

    how is this chip superior, itt uses more power than Samsungs old A9 cortex, and Samsung's implementation isn't even the the most power efficient, let alone that the A9 is an old chip to begin with
    Reply
  • stadisticado - Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - link

    I think dealcorn is being a bit hyperbolic. That said, even 'competitive' from Intel has to be a big warning sign for sellers of ARM chips. Reply

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