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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  • R0H1T - Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - link

    Let's see, umm Snapdragon 600 & then there's this soon to be released 800 ? So lemme get this straight, an unreleased product vs one that was available last year, Intel's latest(future indefinite) vs old/dated(relatively) from ARM seems fair to me ! Reply
  • ssiu - Monday, May 6, 2013 - link

    Exactly the 2 points I wonder about too:

    (1) GPU performance -- 1/4 of an HD4000, about iPad 4 level -- so slower than e.g. PowerVR Rogue which should come out around the same time

    (2) more importantly, even if Intel can make competitive/superior product, can it survive on such low margin?
  • zeo - Wednesday, May 8, 2013 - link

    Well, yes and no on point 1... The iPad is using a quad SGX544, and Rogue doesn't improve performance by that massive amount that a single Rogue/Series 6 could beat a quad Series 5. So it's not that Rogue will be better than the Bay Trail GMA but can scale higher with a multiple configuration!

    On the margins, Intel is lowering their costs moving to 22nm FAB and despite the declining PC market they're still doing well and so should be fine for the foreseeable future... They'll have to do terribly in all markets to really start hurting now and that's not likely yet...
  • andrewaggb - Monday, May 6, 2013 - link

    too early to say I think. This atom should be pretty good. if it's both twice as fast as the old atom and uses less power (which I believe is what they are trying to tell us), that's pretty good. It will be competing with 2nd gen a-15 designs or better, so the current performance claims are largely meaningless. GPU performance continues to be an issue, aiming for last years performance is definitely way too low. Fortunately gpu speed can normally be scaled more quickly than cpu speed, but intel seems to consistently underspec on gpu so I doubt they'll do better this time. Unless they go haswell style and have various different gpu skus. guess we'll see.

    Considering how much success rambus has had suing everybody I think if intel wanted to they could probably sue anybody working on advanced processor designs without sufficient licensing arrangements. Drive the minimum cost up a bit so the margins are higher.
  • R0H1T - Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - link

    This comment is hilarious ~ "gpu speed can normally be scaled more quickly than cpu speed" that's only if you're packing moar cores i.e. like SNB<IVB<<Haswell !

    GPU's cannot be scaled for performance unless there's some major redesigns of the underlying architecture, like AMD's transition to GCN, so unless you've got some insider info into how Intel plans to use their superior Iris(Pro) graphics in Silvermont I see this myth, about Intel's superior graphics, of yours being busted yet again, only this time in the mobile arena !
  • ominobianco - Monday, May 6, 2013 - link

    If you had actually read the article you would know that they are comparing against performance PROJECTIONS of competitors parts available at product launch time, NOT current parts. Reply
  • zeo - Wednesday, May 8, 2013 - link

    Sorry but ARMv8 64bit aren't coming out till the later half of 2014 at the earliest and they're pushing to be on 16nm and not 20nm, which may delay them further!

    While there's no major improvements planned for ARM until then! Many of the original Cortex A15 SoC releases have been delayed from 2012 to 2013!
  • MrSpadge - Monday, May 6, 2013 - link

    Error: On page 1 you correctly write "Remember that power scales with the square of voltage". Almost immediately followed by "At 1V, Intel’s 22nm process gives ... or at the same performance Intel can run the transistors at 0.8V - a 20% power savings."
    Ouch - forgot that square!
  • dusk007 - Monday, May 6, 2013 - link

    I thought we would wait for 14nm for Intel to definitely pull ahead. This looks very promising.
    Now my perfect smartphone would sport a dual core Silvermont with a 4000mah battery, the HTC One camera and otherwise durable.
    GPU I don't care as long as it is good enough for the GUI I don't play games that would require something fast. Thin? Not at the cost of a smaller battery.
    I would love some feature phone like battery life. Triple what we have to deal with now would be incredible and possible it seems to me. Maybe the Motorola Phone X x86 Version can deliver that.
    Camera is secondary and I don't need a 1080p screen. Just 4.3-4.5" of 720p and long battery life.

    I feel like battery life is where this new generation can really promise new things. 32nm Atom already does really well in the tablets compared to quad core ARM competition. It will be a waste if they add 1500mah batteries though. I hope they finally realize as smartphones are mainstream that a lot of people would care first about battery life and second about 7mm thinness.
  • beginner99 - Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - link

    Agree. Current phones are too big, 1080p is pretty much useless and wastes battery life and even the GPU in Medfield is good enough for the GUI. The lower screen resolution of course helps too with needing a not so good GPU. But with both you save on power. I want a phone I need to charge once a week not every day. Reply

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