Final Words

In order to appreciate Intel’s Atom you really have to look at its roadmap. It’s much like AMD these days, today’s product may not be very impressive but its roadmap is sound. The first incarnations of Atom and the Menlow platform have failed to impress us at this point, but where they are headed has got us very excited.

In our review of the iPhone we stated the following:

The excitement around the Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC) died down because no one's hardware/software implementation was really done properly. Well folks, the iPhone is a couple generations away from being a true UMPC, it just needs some faster hardware and more storage space. There's no doubt in my mind that Intel's ultra low power x86 projects are being eyed by Apple for use in future iPhones, it's only a matter of time before we have the power of the first Centrino notebooks in our pockets.

When Apple perfected the smartphone UI it made its performance shortcomings even more obvious. Having a slow CPU in a smartphone isn’t as noticeable if the UI itself isn’t particularly responsive or quick to use, it’s just like being bottlenecked by a slow hard disk - you don’t notice a slow CPU as much in those cases. But when Apple fixed the UI side of things, the slow performance of its ARM CPU became more obvious as you’re able to interact much quicker with your phone.

Intel’s only leg to stand on with Menlow is performance, an area where it does have an advantage over competing ARM processors. However, it can’t yet compete based on power consumption. Through use of Moore’s law allowing for better integration of silicon and smaller, less power hungry transistors, Intel hopes to be at power-parity with ARM (both idle and active) within the next 3 or so years - all while being significantly faster, at least for the next 5.

Intel is effectively promising that in the coming years its Atom processor will enable you to, without sacrificing battery life, have significantly faster mobile devices and phones. We can’t help but be excited about that.

The Moorestown Update: Atom in Smartphones
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  • psychobriggsy - Friday, March 07, 2008 - link

    Through use of Moore’s law allowing for better integration of silicon and smaller, less power hungry transistors, Intel hopes to be at power-parity with ARM (both idle and active) within the next 3 or so years - all while being significantly faster, at least for the next 5.

    Yeah, yeah, and ARM doesn't benefit from Moore's Law?

    Intel hopes to be where ARM SoCs (far more integrated that Mooretown) have been for several years ... in another three. Maybe. Intel will have the process on their side. That's about it.

    In the meantime, given the excellent performance of the iPhone on a 90nm 412MHz ARM11 core (with 1GHz+ available, and multi-core as well with Cortex) I don't see any imminent desire for Apple to switch to these offerings for the iPhone and iPod Touch. I think the release of their SDK suggests this as well - sure, they could make everyone port their software in a mere three years ... or not.

    I just don't think that even Moorestown++ will be anywhere near what Apple need - not integrated enough, not frugal enough. They're not going to make an iBrick (in comparison).
    Reply
  • nubie - Friday, March 07, 2008 - link

    Are ARM SOC's just now moving to 65nm? Intel can push because it has the fab capability and IP and talent and resources.

    The iPhone being x86 means no more seperate Dev on two processor platforms, the iPhone will use the same progs as the desktop OS, no porting will be done, it will open up the handheld to all the companies already making OSX software, a "port" of any desktop app reasonably suited will be very very easy.

    I wonder if Intel will allow a separate memory bus for the RAM, if so this would make it truly competitive, even a second DDR3 populated with SoDimm low latency high speed would do wonders for it. I am thinking of the HTPC and desktop markets of course (and the non-existent high performance hand held gaming market)
    Reply
  • bebesito21 - Friday, March 07, 2008 - link

    Yeah, so by 2015 Intel plans on having this ready? Aren't they a little behind? Seems like IBM already has this plan rolling. The Cell processor already has multiple "children" cpus waiting for a controller CPU to tell them what to do. This is, in my opinion, the best way to design chips because no developer wants to waste time writing programs that take advantage of multiple thread capable CPUS - they rather the hardware figure it out. Its hard enough to use 2 out of 4 cores on a quad core now..imagine 32 cores!

    I wish they would give us a socket on the motherboards for a GPU chip. Then they can do multi-core cpus and multi-core dedicated gpus with new ultra fast buses to link. Plus I don't want Intel completly taking over all chip making...that would at the least cut out NVDIA who doesn't make CPUs. They backed the PS3 though so they might help push the Cell.
    Reply
  • LSnK - Friday, March 07, 2008 - link

    The PPE doesn't auto-magically tell the SPEs what to do. It's vastly more difficult to program for the Cell than a standard multicore CPU. It isn't going to save developers any time. Reply
  • bebesito21 - Friday, March 07, 2008 - link

    Yeah, so by 2015 Intel plans on having this ready? Aren't they a little behind? Seems like IBM already has this plan rolling. The Cell processor already has multiple "children" cpus waiting for a controller CPU to tell them what to do. This is, in my opinion, the best way to design chips because no developer wants to waste time writing programs that take advantage of multiple thread capable CPUS - they rather the hardware figure it out. Its hard enough to use 2 out of 4 cores on a quad core now..imagine 32 cores!

    I wish they would give us a socket on the motherboards for a GPU chip. Then they can do multi-core cpus and multi-core dedicated gpus with new ultra fast buses to link. Plus I don't want Intel completly taking over all chip making...that would at the least cut out NVDIA who doesn't make CPUs. They backed the PS3 though so they might help push the Cell.
    Reply
  • bebesito21 - Friday, March 07, 2008 - link

    Yeah, so by 2015 Intel plans on having this ready? Aren't they a little behind? Seems like IBM already has this plan rolling. The Cell processor already has multiple "children" cpus waiting for a controller CPU to tell them what to do. This is, in my opinion, the best way to design chips because no developer wants to waste time writing programs that take advantage of multiple thread capable CPUS - they rather the hardware figure it out. Its hard enough to use 2 out of 4 cores on a quad core now..imagine 32 cores!

    I wish they would give us a socket on the motherboards for a GPU chip. Then they can do multi-core cpus and multi-core dedicated gpus with new ultra fast buses to link. Plus I don't want Intel completly taking over all chip making...that would at the least cut out NVDIA who doesn't make CPUs. They backed the PS3 though so they might help push the Cell.
    Reply
  • sprockkets - Friday, March 07, 2008 - link

    Maybe Windows Mobile will now have a browser capable of doing IE5! No more excuses! Reply
  • Soccerman06 - Friday, March 07, 2008 - link

    Can they throw on one socket? Would be interesting to see if you could put 32 on a socket and perform similar to core2 duo if the program was coded for that many cores. Reply
  • Janooo - Thursday, March 06, 2008 - link

    Well, I'm just curious who's going to be the first with CPU and GPU on one silicon. Reply
  • Gholam - Friday, March 07, 2008 - link

    Intel had working samples of integrated CPU+GPU 9 years ago, but the cancelled the project. Google "Intel Timna". Reply

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