The PowerVR SGX 540 in Medfield is no different from what you'd get in an OMAP 4460, with the exception that it's clocked a bit higher at 400MHz. 

The SGX 540 here is a remnant of Intel's earlier strategy to have Medfield out far sooner than it actually is going to show up on the market. Thankfully Intel has plans to introduce a PowerVR SGX 543MP2 based Medfield successor also before the end of the year.

Video Decode/Encode Support, Silicon Hive ISP

Intel relies on two more IP blocks from Imagination Technologies: the VDX385 and VDE285 for 1080p video decode and encode. Intel claims support for hardware accelerated 1080p30 decode, High Profile. Maximum supported bitrate is apparently up to 50Mbps, although Intel only demonstrated a 20Mbps High Profile stream:


Intel also claims support for 1080p30 video encode.

Medfield's ISP is provided by Intel owned Silicon Hive. The ISP supports cameras ranging from 5MP to 16MP (primary sensor), with the reference design standardizing on an 8MP sensor. Medfield supports burst capture at up to 15 fps (8MP). 

The Process

Intel bifurcated its process technology a few years ago, offering both low power and high performance versions of each of its process nodes. Today those process nodes are staggered (45nm LP after high perf 32nm, 32nm LP debuts after high performance 22nm, etc...) however Intel plans on bringing both in lockstep.

Medfield debuts on Intel's 32nm LP process. The only details we have from Intel are that leakage is 10x lower than the lowest on 45nm. Compared to Moorestown, Medfield boasts 43% lower dynamic power or 37% higher frequency at the same power level.

The bigger and more valid comparison is to TSMC's 28nm process, which is what companies like Qualcomm will be using for their next-generation SoCs. It's unclear (and very difficult) to compare different architectures on different processes, but it's likely that Intel's 32nm LP process is more comparable to TSMC's 28nm LP process than it would be to any 4x-nm node.

It is important to note that Intel seems very willing to sacrifice transistor density in order to achieve lower power consumption where possible. I don't believe Intel will have the absolute smallest die sizes in the market, but I also don't believe it's clear what the sweet spot is for mobile SoCs at this point. It's quite likely that Apple's ~120mm^2 target is likely where everyone will eventually end up in the near term.

The Roadmap

Although Medfield is already posting competitive performance numbers, its current competition is roughly a year old. Within the next two quarters we'll see smartphones and tablets shipping based on Qualcomm's Krait. The next-generation Snapdragon platform should be Cortex A15-like in its performance level

Today we have Medfield, a single core Atom paired with a PowerVR SGX 540 built on Intel's 32nm LP process. Before the end of the year we'll see a dual-core Atom based Medfield with some form of a GPU upgrade. I wouldn't be too surprised to see something like a PowerVR SGX 543MP2 at that point either. In tandem Intel will eventually release an entry level SoC designed to go after the more value market. Finally we'll see an Intel Atom based SoC with integrated Intel baseband from its Infineon acquisition - my guess is that'll happen sometime in 2013.

The CPU What's Different This Time Around: Google & A Sweet Reference Platform
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • BSMonitor - Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - link

    Lot of "if's" and "shoulds" in your argument.
  • Lucian Armasu - Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - link

    Well, he's comparing Atom with ARM based on benchmarks that Intel has provided, and for a chip that won't be out until the end of the year. So that's not very realistic either. Intel has been saying for a long time that "this is finally the year we're going to compete with ARM". I'm very skeptical at this point, until I really see it in the market, in a real phone, and see how it does against the competition then.
  • tipoo - Thursday, January 12, 2012 - link

    Indeed, we'll have to wait and see. Also, since this chip is a single core its easier to get its full potential, on apps that are well threaded we might see even current ARM chips beat it.
  • Donnie Darko - Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - link

    I'm generally more excited to see x86 in the market because it will drive competition more than it will drive Intel into a new field.

    It was an impressive technology demo, but to be honest untill they can integrate the base band radio onto the SOC they won't compete. You will be able to buy their phones and that's nice, but Qualcom will still dominate the market with Sammy/Ti and even Nvidia (shudder) rounding out most of the other designs.

    Having a top to bottom stack will be nice though for everyone. Arm laptops/tablets, file servers, massivly-wide simple-instruction servers and phones. x86 HP computing (Sever->Tablets) and phones. If Intel can make enough of a beac h head then we should see AMD in the mobile space in a couple of years two. Their synthesisable CPU cores with Bobcat and their GPUs would be wicked down there.
  • guilmon19 - Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - link

    I usually like competition as well, but when intel jumps in there i (shudder). At the moment Samsung, Motorla, qualcom, texas, ect were competing with each other with their own SoC, but they had to use the same fab to build their CPU's, but intel has their own fab(that is alot better then the ones used to build ARM) so they get a huge advantage over all those companies.
  • Griswold - Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - link

    It's the answer to a question nobody asked!
  • tipoo - Thursday, January 12, 2012 - link

    And to the left of it! Its the comment that means no one but the original poster, if even that!
  • pugster - Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - link

    Frankly, I don't know how does Intel can do 1.6ghz cpu and 400mhz gpu for less power than an arm cpu. Gees, we have seen 1.6ghz atom cpus in netbooks and the power envelope is much higher and a 32nm process can't reduce this much further.

    Second, the phone's cpu is usually in deep sleep most of the time, intel didn't really benchmark what happens when the phone is idle, IE standby time.

    Third, is cost. Unless Intel start selling these cpus at giveaway prices for less than $15, I doubt that these phones are competitive to ARM variants.

    Fourth is adoption rate. Considering that most of the apps are written for the ARM cpus, I wonder when phone manufacturers and porogrammers will port intel version of their apps.
  • bobsmith1492 - Thursday, January 12, 2012 - link

    The article covers power consumption and porting.

    Cost is a valid concern! Real-life use cycles will be good to show how quick it transitions into and out of sleep for real-life power use. Being faster when active with the same power use though it should be better if anything. The clock rate scaling will compete against the big-little architecture for ARM, too.
  • Roy2001 - Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - link

    Very impressive. Good job Intel!

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now