Intel shows off Moorestown Atom for smartphones

The chipmaker has previewed the next generation of its Atom processor platform, promising large cuts in power consumption for smartphones and tablets
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Intel has detailed Moorestown, the ultra-low-energy version of Atom that the company hopes will take it firmly into the smartphone processor market.

Moorestown, officially branded as the Atom Z6xx-series, was shown off in London on Tuesday. In its demonstration, Intel said the 45nm processing platform, formerly codenamed Lincroft, offered big power consumption savings over its predecessor, Menlow.

According to Intel, at 21mW stand-by power consumption is 50 times more power efficient than Menlow, giving 10 days standby on a standard 1500mAh smartphone battery. A Moorestown device on the same battery could run audio continuously for two days, 20 times longer than Menlow, Intel said.

In the demonstration, Intel's EMEA embedded marketing chief Rod O'Shea said Moorestown made Intel's technology competitive with ARM, makers of the architecture that underpins most handsets. "We're clearly in that space now," he said. "On power, we are in the zone; on performance, we lead."

Shreekant 'Ticky' Thakkar, the chief platform architect for Intel's Ultra Mobile Group, also stressed that Moorestown offered more performance than ARM's Cortex A8 and A9 platforms.

"If you have something that doesn't deliver performance, it's easy to shove it into a phone," Thakkar said, adding that ARM doesn't need to produce the "aggressive power management" of Moorestown because "they don't have performance in that class".

Thakkar said the power gating technology in Moorestown would make it possible for devices using the platform to consume just 100 microwatts in idle mode. He said the devices would be able to exit this idle state within three milliseconds, letting them "save power and yet be responsive as a phone".

Moorestown will also include "burst performance technology" similar to the turbo mode found in Intel's Core processors, Thakkar said.

The chips will run at up to 1.5GHz in smartphones and 1.9GHz in tablets. Supported resolutions will go up to 1,366x768 pixels, and the platform will support 1080p high-definition video recording and playback, with Moorestown platforms intended to use solid-state drives.

ZDNet UK asked whether the platform would make its way into netbooks, but O'Shea stressed that the N-series of Atom processors was "better for netbooks because they don't have the same tolerance for power".

Moorestown will be used to run Android and "Google", O'Shea said, possibly referring to Google's upcoming Chrome OS. He also said there would be "significant movement around Moblin and Meego", but at no point mentioned Windows support in the x86-based platform.

O'Shea refused to say whether or not Intel had any customers yet for Moorestown. He said, however, he expected devices based on the platform to ship in the second half of this year. The third generation of ultra-low-power Atoms will be called Medfield, and is scheduled to ship in 2011.

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