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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  • BSMonitor - Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - link

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

    It's the answer to a question nobody asked! Reply
  • 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! Reply
  • 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! Reply

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