Intel details new processors aimed at cracking the mobile market

The chipmaker reveals more about its new chips that will power smartphones, phablets, and tablets.

Analysis: Intel CEO Brian Krzanich has revealed more details about the company's new chips aimed at the tablet, phablet, and smartphone market.

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At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Monday, Krzanich spoke about the x3, x5 and x7 processor range - its new name for its Atom family of chips.

The chipmaker has bet a lot on breaking into the mobile market, and while its mobile division lost $4.2bn during the last financial year, Krzanich said it had hit its goal of 40 million tablets shipping with Intel inside.

Hitting that target has come at a cost. To help drive adoption of its chipsets Intel has been subsidising the cost of its hardware in mobile devices and in its most recent quarterly report it also blamed lower sales of phone components for the continued losses.

However, the group's outgoings may soon be reduced, with an Intel executive predicting it may be able to scale back subsidies on its new line of Atom processors.

The Intel Atom x3 processor family, formerly code-named SoFIA, is aimed at entry-level and value tablets, phablets, and smartphones. Twenty companies, including ASUS and Jolla, have committed to using Intel Atom x3 designs in their products.

The Intel Atom x3 processor is Intel's first integrated SoC featuring 3G or 4G modems. Image: Intel

The 64-bit, multi-core Intel Atom x3 processors are based on Intel's first system on a chip (SoC) featuring an integrated 3G or 4G modem - together with application and image sensor processors, graphics, audio, connectivity, and power management components.

The Intel Atom x3 processor family includes:

  • Intel Atom x3-C3130, a dual-core platform with an Intel Atom processor integrated with a 3G modem.
  • Intel Atom x3-C3230RK, a quad-core platform with an Intel Atom processor integrated with a 3G modem, manufactured by Intel's development partner, Rockchip.
  • Intel Atom x3-C3440, a quad-core platform with an Intel Atom processor integrated with an LTE modem.

Intel also introduced its first 14nm Intel Atom SoCs, formerly codenamed Cherry Trail and now referred to as Intel Atom x5 and x7, for next-generation tablets and small screen 2-in-1s. Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Toshiba have already committed to using the chip inside devices, with the first expected to be on the market in the first half of this year.

The chip offers 64-bit support for Windows and Android, Intel Gen 8 graphics, and an option to include LTE Advanced connectivity. Intel says the x5 and x7 processor series is targeted at mainstream to premium devices.

The processors are "conflict free", meaning they do not contain minerals - tin, tantalum, tungsten, and/or gold - sourced from mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo that exploit workers.

Intel also announced its third-generation, five-mode LTE Advanced Category 10 modem - the Intel XMM 7360, which supports download speeds of up to 450Mbps and 3x carrier aggregation, where different spectrum bands are utilised concurrently to increase data rates. The modem is designed to be incorporated into a wide range of form factors from smartphones and phablets to tablets and PCs.

In addition the company demonstrated a pre-5G concept system that combines LTE with 802.11ad to deliver speeds of more than 1 Gbps.

Krzanich also showed off the Dell Venue 10 tablet, featuring a detachable keyboard and Intel RealSense snapshot technology - which uses three cameras to measure image depth in photos - allowing the focal point to be shifted after an image is taken and other neat photo-editing tricks, which is expected to be available soon.

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