Moorestown Recap and Update: 1B Transistors in your Pocket, in 5 Years

The Atom processor is just that, a standalone CPU. It has no integrated memory controller, much less on-die graphics or anything else that would make it feasible for use in something like a smartphone.

Atom’s mobile chipset counterpart, codenamed Poulsbo, is built on a very old 130nm manufacturing process, which unfortunately means that it’s huge:

The Intel Atom processor (left) vs. The Poulsbo chipset (right)

The physical size of the Atom/Poulsbo combination is just too large and the leakage power of the platform is too great to allow for multi-day standby battery life, which is necessary for something like a smartphone.

Intel’s answer comes by 2010 with Moorestown:


Moorestown is the System on a Chip (SoC) successor to Atom, addressing many of the deficiencies mentioned above. Built entirely on a 45nm process, Moorestown combines Atom with a memory controller, GPU and dedicated video encode/decode hardware. The new chip is called Lincroft and should boast reductions in physical size and power consumption, making it the first x86 platform ready for use in smartphones.

Intel revealed a bit more today about Moorestown, mostly highlighting the need for it.

Wireless bandwidth is increasing:

Just give me 10Mbps wirelessly by 2009 and I'll be happy

The types of things we’re trying to do online are also increasing in complexity:

Intel seems to imply that future SoCs will be made up of > 100M transistors, and it would be safe to say that the Lincroft chip in Moorestown could easily be a 100M transistor chip. The Atom processor itself is 47M transistors, integrating a memory controller, GPU and video encode/decode engines could easily see that balloon to 100M transistors.

Even more exciting is that within 5 years Intel expects embedded processors like Lincroft to have 1 billion transistors. That would mean something with the complexity of Nehalem, in something the size of an 5 years.

Moore's Law at its best. Not only do things get faster, less complex chips get much cheaper.

Index Highly Integrated x86 Today: EP80579


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