Intel steps up Android chipset efforts at MWC

Intel hopes to increase its mobile presence with more powerful systems on a chip based on Atom processors, at Mobile World Congress

Intel hopes to increase its mobile presence with more powerful “systems on a chip” (SoC) based on its Atom processors, as rival ARM-based chipsets continue to dominate the new products announced at this year's Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona.

Intel’s announcements at MWC 2013 included Clover Trail+, a new 32nm dual-core SoC designed for smartphones and tablets, available in speeds of 1.2Ghz, 1.6Ghz and 2Ghz (Z2520, Z2560 and Z2580 respectively). Hyper-threading supports up to four application threads.

An integrated graphics processing unit (GPU) supports 1080p graphics and hardware-accelerated encode and decode at 30fps (frames per second). Other features include Intel identity protection technology (IPT) which embeds two-factor authentication into the hardware.

Intel also confirmed its plans for a forthcoming 22nm SoC, codenamed Merrifield, which has a new microarchitecture and is designed for smartphones. 

Another platform, Bay Trail, will be Intel’s first quad-core Atom SoC and is for Windows or Android tablets, rather than smartphones. Bay Trail is expected in winter 2013.

Bay Trail will also use Intel’s Generation 7 GPU, whereas previous Intel SoCs use GPUs based on Imagination’s PowerVR technology. Clover Trail+ continues to use PowerVR.

Intel said to expect central processing unit (CPU) performance to double and GPU performance to triple with its new SoCs.

Intel also talked about its XMM 7160 long-term evolution (LTE) product, which supports 15 simultaneous LTE bands for 4G mobile networking. Single-mode LTE support is shipping now, with multimode to follow in the first half of this year, addressing a weakness in Intel’s mobile offerings versus ARM-based rivals such as Qualcomm.

Intel said its progress on Android was delayed by its focus on Windows 8, especially in the tablet market.

“Last year, we gave priority to Windows 8, because we wanted to hit general availability of Windows 8. Now you see the Android solutions coming,” said Intel vice-president Hermann Eul, co-general manager of the Mobile and Communications Group. “There will be 10in tablets coming soon, and I expect 7in as well.”

He added that 10 new Android smartphones running Intel SoCs had been announced at Mobile World Congress, including the Asus Fonepad, a budget-priced smartphone that can also power a 7in slate. Other vendors include Motorola, Lenovo and ZTE.

Eul could not resist a swipe at Microsoft, for using an ARM chipset in its Surface RT device: “Microsoft should have chosen Clover Trail and put a full Windows 8 on it. Then it would have been a fully functional tablet. If you look at test results, it outperforms in perception, it outperforms in performance, compared with the Windows RT devices.”

He said that Intel-based Windows 8 tablets seem to be finding more favour in the market. Even for power consumption, Eul claimed that Atom has the edge.

“Clover Trail runs longer on the battery, and it also has a few hours longer connected standby [low power standby mode in Windows 8]. Even this myth is now busted,” said Eul.

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