Final Words

Silvermont really is Intel’s Conroe for the mobile market, but not in the sense that many have been expecting. Given that success in mobile is so closely tied to device wins, Silvermont alone isn’t enough. Unlike Conroe, a very competitive Silvermont won’t change the world overnight. What Silvermont does however is offer a great foundation for Intel going forward. Conroe lead to Penryn, Nehalem, Westmere, Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge and soon, Haswell. It was the platform that Intel could build on regularly by executing on tick-tock. Conroe paved the way for the insane advantage Intel has held onto for the past few years. Silvermont is like Conroe in that it provides that same foundation.

The mobile market is far more competitive than the PC industry was back when Conroe hit. There isn’t just one AMD but many competitors in the SoC space that are already very lean and fast moving. There’s also the fact that Intel doesn’t have tremendous marketshare in ultra mobile. Silvermont may feel a lot like Conroe, but the market it’s competing in is very different. That’s not to say that Intel can’t be successful here; it’s just not going to be easy.

Architecturally Silvermont is very conservative, and that’s not a bad thing. A side effect of not wanting to make Haswell irrelevant by a far lower cost part is the benefit of maintaining power efficiency. Intel joins the ranks of Apple and Qualcomm in intelligently scaling performance while respecting power consumption. Intel’s 22nm process should give Silvermont a lot of runway to use. If it can quickly follow up with 14nm, Silvermont’s power advantage could end up being akin to Conroe’s performance advantage in the mid-2000s.

Even so, Silvermont is long overdue. It’s the first mobile architecture where Intel really prioritized smartphones and tablets, and on paper, it looks very good. Now it’s up to Intel to turn a great architecture into great design wins. From what I’m hearing, we may actually see that happen.

Tablet Expectations & Performance
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  • Jumangi - Monday, May 6, 2013 - link

    Let me know when Intel has something of actual substance to show and not just bunch of marketing/hype focused Powerpoint slides. ARM continues to delivers solid performance gains year after year with low power usage...Intel says yea we'll will get around to updating our 5 year old design...eventually we promise...yawn... Reply
  • Krysto - Monday, May 6, 2013 - link

    Great point. Intel keeps promising how awesome they will be when they launch their new "mobile" chip, and at always it's ALWAYS disappointing, because in the mean time ARM chips keep shipping on their merry way, and keep improving. Fast. Reply
  • A5 - Monday, May 6, 2013 - link

    Eh. A15 wasn't exactly a home run. The performance is good for what it is, but they overshot their TDP targets big time. Reply
  • saurabhr8here - Monday, May 6, 2013 - link

    A15 wasn't a home run because it has been developed on an early bleeding edge technology. As the process technology matures and the design is optimized for the process, the power/performance numbers will improve. Reply
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - link

    A15's problem isn't overshooting TDP targets; it's that it was originally designed for use in entry level NASes and other similar level embedded systems/micro servers. A few extra watts for better CPU performance isn't a big problem there. Reply
  • xTRICKYxx - Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - link

    Exactly. A15 was not initially designed for smartphones. Reply
  • Wilco1 - Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - link

    That's not correct, ARM has said from the early announcements that it would go into mobiles at lower frequencies and core counts. Of course both core counts and frequencies turned out to be higher than originally expected, so power consumption is higher too. The Exynos 5250 appears to be released quickly in order to be first to market. The Octa core is far more tuned and will do better. NVidia has stated Tegra 4 uses 40% less power than Tegra 3 at equivalent performance levels. Reply
  • Krysto - Monday, May 6, 2013 - link

    Let's do a recap. Performance is as high as Cortex A15...a chip launched in 2012.

    GPU performance is where iPad 4 was...in 2012.

    They are doing their benchmarks against last-gen ARM chips...okay.

    Intel Silvermont is expected late 2013/early 2014.

    Yeah...it's obviously so competitive! NOT.

    By the time Intel Silvermont arrives in smartphones (Merrifield), we will see 20nm ARMv8 chips in smartphones, already shipping. Good luck, Intel, another hit and a miss.

    As for what you said that Silvermont is conservative because they don't want to basically cannibalize Haswell - that's EXACTLY Intel's biggest problem right now. Their conflict of interest between the low-end, unprofitable Atom division, with the high-end very profitable Core division.

    This is exactly what killed their Xscale division, too. And it's what will kill Intel in the end. Because Intel will have to make Atom compete *whether they want to or not*. ARM chips are going to go higher and higher performance and become "good enough" for most everything. What is Intel going to do then? They'll have to keep up, which will slowly eliminate their *profitable* Core chips from the market. And what then? Survive on $20 chips with a dozen competitors? This is going to be very interesting for Intel in the next few years - and not in a good way, especially with a brand new CEO.
    Reply
  • Kjella - Monday, May 6, 2013 - link

    It's been four months of 2013, how many quad-core ARM processors have launched since 2012? They're comparing against what is out now (if they were able to compare against unreleased ARM processors there'd be something very wrong) and beating them, not sure where your reading comprehension failed there. Looks to me like they're ready for a clash of the titans around year's end. Also 1-5W chips don't compete much with 15-85W Haswells no matter what, AMD is dying fast and people need their x86 computers so whatever. Reminds me of all the posts that say Windows is sooooooo dead. Reply
  • xTRICKYxx - Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - link

    AMD is making a lot of money right now. Reply

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