SoCs and Graphics

Intel isn’t talking about implementations of Silvermont today other than to say that it will show up in smartphones (Merrifield), tablets (Baytrail), automotive (unannounced), communications infrastructure products (Rangeley) and microservers (Avoton). Baytrail, the tablet implementation of Silvermont, will be available by the end of this year running both Windows 8 (8.1/Blue?) and Android. Silvermont based Merrifield phones will show up early in 2014.

What we know about Baytrail is that it will be a quad-core implementation of Silvermont paired with Intel’s own Gen 7 graphics. Although we don’t know clock speeds, we do know that Baytrail’s GPU core will feature 4 EUs - 1/4 the number used in Ivy Bridge’s Gen7 implementation (Intel HD 4000). Ultimately we can’t know how fast the GPU will be until we know clock speeds, but I wouldn’t be too surprised to see something at or around where the iPad 4’s GPU is today. Given Intel’s recent announcements around Iris and Iris Pro, it’s clear that the mobile team hasn’t yet had the graphics wakeup call that the Core team just got - but I suspect the Atom group will get there sooner rather than later. Intel’s eDRAM approach to scaling Haswell graphics (and CPU) performance has huge implications in mobile. I wouldn’t expect eDRAM enabled mobile SoCs based on Silvermont, but I wouldn’t be too surprised to see something at 14nm.

Penryn-Class Performance

When Atom first came out, I put its CPU performance in perspective by comparing it to older Pentium M based notebooks. It turned out that a 1.6GHz Atom performed similarly to a 1.2GHz Pentium M. So how does Silvermont stack up in PC notebook terms?

On single threaded performance, you should expect a 2.4GHz Silvermont to perform like a 1.2GHz Penryn. To put it in perspective of actual systems, we’re talking about around the level of performance of an 11-inch Core 2 Duo MacBook Air from 2010. Keep in mind, I’m talking about single threaded performance here. In heavily threaded applications, a quad-core Silvermont should be able to bat even further up the Penryn line. Intel is able to do all of this with only a 2-wide machine (lower IPC, but much higher frequency thanks to 22nm).

There’s no doubt in my mind that a Baytrail Android tablet will deliver amazing performance, the real unknown is whether or not a Baytrail Windows 8 detachable/convertible will be fast enough to deliver a good enough legacy Windows experience. I suspect it’ll take Airmont before we really get there by my standards, but it’ll be close this round for sure.

What’ll really be interesting to see is how Silvermont fares in smartphones. Max clock speeds should be lower than what’s possible in a tablet, but not by all that much thanks to good power management. When viewed in that light, I don’t know that there’s a more exciting mobile architecture announced at this point. The ability to deliver 2010 11-inch MacBook Air performance in a phone is insane.

The Silvermont Module and Caches Tablet Expectations & Performance


View All Comments

  • extide - Wednesday, May 08, 2013 - link

    What does Tegra 4 do 1.9Ghz in? Reply
  • Wilco1 - Wednesday, May 08, 2013 - link

    Rumour is that it goes in the next ZTE phone out in a few months. Reply
  • phoenix_rizzen - Tuesday, May 07, 2013 - link

    Note: Tegra 4i does *not* use Cortex-A15 CPUs, it uses Cortex-A9 CPUs! In fact, there's very little "Tegra 4" in the "Tegra 4i" other than the name. Reply
  • lmcd - Monday, May 13, 2013 - link

    And the GPU is closer to the 4 than 3.

    And the process node. Oh yeah, that.
  • name99 - Monday, May 06, 2013 - link

    You're willfully missing the point (and I say that as someone who's not convinced it will be easy for Intel to get ahead).

    What is the value of high speed CPUs in a phone (or for that matter a tablet, or a desktop machine)? For most users it is NOT that it allows some long computation to take a shorter time; rather it's that it provides snappiness --- it allows something that would have taken 1/40th of a sec to take 1/60th of a sec, or that would have taken 1/3rd of a sec to take 1/4 of a sec.
    In this world, where snappiness is what matters, the ability to run your CPU at very high speeds for very short bursts of time (as long as this does not cost you long-run power) is an exceedingly valuable asset. You're being very stupid to dismiss it.
  • dig23 - Thursday, May 09, 2013 - link

    I think so too. This article sounds totally biased :( Reply
  • bkiserx7 - Monday, May 06, 2013 - link

    I wish they would go all out and lay it all on the table. I think it would drive great competition through the industry. Reply
  • Gigaplex - Tuesday, May 07, 2013 - link

    Agreed. And if it does come out "too good", just downclock it and get even better battery life. Reply
  • jamesb2147 - Monday, May 06, 2013 - link

    This is, by far, the worst article I've ever read on Anandtech. I'm pulling you out of my RSS feed specifically because of this article.

    Post when you have specs, guys, not Intel slides. I don't want to see the word "should."
  • Homeles - Monday, May 06, 2013 - link

    AnandTech's architectural analyses are some of the best in the industry. It's your loss. Reply

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