Intel Attempts to Enter the Smartphone Market with x86 Platform for the Second Time

Intel Launches Moorestown Platform for Smartphones and Tablets

by Anton Shilov
05/04/2010 | 10:08 PM

Intel Corp.’s Xscale microprocessors based on ARM architecture were pretty successful among makers of advanced handheld products, but the giant chipmaker decided to sell off the Xscale business and try to develop x86 chips for ultra-portable devices. The company’s first attempt with Atom processors failed to win any smartphone designs, but the company hopes that its new Moorestown platform will finally land x86 architecture into handsets or, perhaps, tablets.

 

Moorestown comprises of Atom Z600-series system-on-a-chip, code-named “Lincroft”, which integrates the 45nm processor, Intel GMA 600 graphics core (OpenGL ES 2.0, OpenGL 2.1, OpenVG 1.1, 400MHz), 32-bit LPDDR1/DDR2 memory controller and video encode/decode onto a single chip; Intel Platform Controller Hub MP20 codenamed “Langwell”, which supports a range of I/O ports to connect with wireless, storage, and display components in addition to incorporating several board level functions; and dedicated Mixed Signal IC (MSIC) code-named "Briertown”.

Building on the C6 state in the original Intel Atom processor design, the Atom Z600-series SoC incorporates new ultra-low-power states (S0i1 and S0i3), which take the SoC to 100mW. At the platform level, Intel implemented a new, fine grain OS power management approach that manages the idle and active power states across all aspects of the system based on usage scenarios. This software-managed technique applies aggressive power and clock gating across the SoC's power islands and system voltage rails. Additionally, Intel used a new high-K 45nm LP SoC process to support a multiple transistor design with a range of high-voltage I/Os.

Collectively these new chips deliver significantly lower power including >50x reduction in idle power, >20x reduction in audio power, and 2-3x reductions across browsing and video scenarios – all at the platform level when compared to Intel's previous-generation product. These power savings translate into >10 days of standby, up to 2 days of audio playback and 4-5 hours of browsing and video battery life with 1500mAh battery. When combined with 1.5-3x higher compute performance, 2-4x richer graphics, >4x higher JavaScript performance, and support for full HD 1080p high-profile video decoding and 720p HD video recording, these low-power innovations bring a rich, PC-like visual experience to powerful handheld computers.

The new platform supports a range of scalable frequencies, up to 1.5GHz for high-end smartphones and up to 1.9GHz for tablets and other handheld designs. Additional standalone chips also bring support for Wi-Fi, 3G/HSPA, and WiMAX, as well as a range of operation systems, including Android, Meego and Moblin.

The Moorestown technology package provides significantly lower power consumption compared to previous platform and prepares the company to target a range of computing devices, including high-end smartphones, tablets and other mobile handheld products. It is indisputable fact that Intel’s Moorestown will be among the highest-performance offerings for mobile devices. However, it should be noted that mobile phone makers tend to install more highly-integrated solutions to keep their devices small and low power. Intel’s Moorestown is a dual-chip solution that requires a baseband processor, which essentially makes the platform a three-piece product. For tablets or very high-end smartphones this may work. However, mainstream smartphones are unlikely to incorporate the new Intel platform. Not surprisingly, Intel did not unveil any Moorestown-based products at press time.