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Intel-Powered Smartphones Arriving Soon 182

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the pocket-heating-device dept.
adeelarshad82 writes "After years of promises to enter the smartphone market, Intel has finally done so. During his keynote at CES, Intel's Chief executive Paul Otellini said that Intel has signed Lenovo and Motorola to contracts to use its Atom processors in smartphones. Unlike past launches, Intel has held Medfield back until its partners were ready to go to press as well. According to an early preview, Medfield pairs a 1.6GHz Atom CPU with an SGX540 GPU designed by PowerVR. This is the same GPU we've seen tip up in the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and Droid Razr, though Intel is clocking it higher, at 400MHz. Intel's new SoC encodes video at 720p at 30 fps, can playback 1080p at 30 fps, and supports 1920×1080 output via HDMI. The first smartphone to carry an Intel chip will debut on China Unicom during the second quarter."
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Intel-Powered Smartphones Arriving Soon

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  • by symbolset (646467) * on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @01:24PM (#38665000) Journal

    You haven't entered the market until the phones are available at retail. I would like to see this, but it hasn't happened yet and the announcement is premature.

    I would like to see these phones on sale in the US. It would probably be my next phone, as I'm due for one in the fall.

    • by DragonWriter (970822) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @01:35PM (#38665152)

      You haven't entered the market until the phones are available at retail.

      If the market at issue is the retail market for cellphones, there might be some validity to that. The market Intel is actually entering is the market for supplying processors to smartphone manufacturers, which they've entered as soon as they have a product available for those manufacturers to order.

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      You haven't entered the market until the phones are available at retail. I would like to see this, but it hasn't happened yet and the announcement is premature.

      I would like to see these phones on sale in the US. It would probably be my next phone, as I'm due for one in the fall.

      As far as I'm concerned, it's like announcing yet another car which runs on gas.

      Processors .. woop de doo. Better operating systems / apps are more important (plus compatibility to standards)

      • by gregrah (1605707) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:02PM (#38665454)
        Agreed that Intel entering the smartphone market is not going to have the same impact on smartphone users as the announcement of a new or improved OS, for example. However, as consumers we are all likely to benefit from the competition.

        As an Intel shareholder, though, I am very excited by this announcement.
      • Funny, that used to be the thinking at Apple until they switched to Intel chips. Then suddenly their machines were running circles around the old Power PC chips that had been previously touted as superior to Intel's chips.
      • by sapgau (413511)

        So there is no more improvement available for processors?
        Moore's Law be damned!
         

    • by poetmatt (793785)

      Of course. This is the "marketing" and hype part of the process: announcing the product months before it's even available.

      Intel really really hopes they can enter this strongly, the reality is that the atom processors are not going to compete well with android as they aren't even going to be compatible with apps out the door (as apps aren't all programmed for x86).

      Had Intel actually used the arm license they themselves purchased, that would have been a wiser decision.

  • ... and there are a couple videos with it already where it runs some kind of (rather unresponsive) android.
    I hope it's easy/possible to make it run whatever x86 OS you please.

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @01:31PM (#38665094)

    Have they been able to get into power-draw ranges that'd make the battery life compatible with ARM-based devices?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by neelwebs (2547396)
      I read on Anandtech that the power draw is comparable to ARM-based devices. http://www.anandtech.com/show/5365/intels-medfield-atom-z2460-arrive-for-smartphones [anandtech.com]
      • Even if that's the case, comparable isn't enough. To inspire a switch of platform requires a generational improvement in something.

        • by symbolset (646467) *
          Well they claim "full buzzword compliance" and wireless display - which is a big add for me. That would be everything and something more. It should be interesting.
        • Being an x86 CPU the performance should be better. Better performance at the same power draw? Sounds like an advantage. Although 2Ghz dual-core ARM CPUs are coming out now so it might not be that much.

          What I'm looking forward to is the modding potential of portable devices running Win8. It's a regular x86 OS, so it should be pretty easy to install Linux on these things, more specifically Maemo, the best portable device OS ever! :D

      • by fnj (64210)

        If 70% more power draw than an iPhone 4S playing back 720p was "comparable", I might be impressed.

        • If 70% more power draw than an iPhone 4S playing back 720p was "comparable", I might be impressed.

          And the same source giving you that number says that iPhone 4S uses 30% more power for web browsing, which is far more common on a phone. 4S also uses more than twice as much power (111% more) when in standby and 14% more power when talking over 3G. Now are you impressed?

      • by alvinrod (889928)
        The chips that they're comparing it to are not fabricated on a 32 nm process so the power consumption is going to be worse from a manufacturing standpoint, making it difficult to compare the architectures. We won't have a real comparison until we start getting ARM chips made on a 32nm or 28nm process.
    • by jmorris42 (1458) *

      That is their claim in the graphs in the article. Graphs that don't mention which competing devices are being compared and which have no numbers. But they are claiming to be middle of the pack in idle power consumption, which has always been the fatal flaw in x86 mobile devices until now. If they have really managed to get an x86 to idle at a couple of milliamps of current then they are probably in the hunt. If not, it is all bogus like an x86 tablet. Who wants a phone you have to charge daily even if

      • The phones in the article are HTC Sensation, Motorola Droid 3, iPhone 4S, LG Optimus 2X and Samsung Galaxy S 2.

        http://www.anandtech.com/show/5365/intels-medfield-atom-z2460-arrive-for-smartphones [anandtech.com]

        x86 is offering more performance per watt than ARM, though by no more than a factor of 2.

      • by asliarun (636603) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @04:16PM (#38667054)

        That is their claim in the graphs in the article. Graphs that don't mention which competing devices are being compared and which have no numbers. But they are claiming to be middle of the pack in idle power consumption, which has always been the fatal flaw in x86 mobile devices until now. If they have really managed to get an x86 to idle at a couple of milliamps of current then they are probably in the hunt. If not, it is all bogus like an x86 tablet. Who wants a phone you have to charge daily even if you don't call or even light up the display? It is all about idle time with these more mobile devices, not how many HD frames you can push for the hour or so the battery can hold up.

        Anand has done a really good job analyzing Medfield's performance and power usage, with actual comparisons against other shipping competitors.
        So, to answer your questions:

        1. Performance comparison -
        Sunspider javascript benchmark (lower is better) -
        Intel Medfield - 1331 - compare to iPhone 4S - 2250 & Galaxy Nexus running Android Icecream Sandwitch - 1988

        Browsermark benchmark scores (higher is better) -
        Medfield - 116425 - compare to iPhone 4S - 87841 & Galaxy Nexus running Android Icecream Sandwitch - 97381

        Intel's Medfield has a good 20-50% performance lead against currently shipping top of the line ARM. Granted most ARM phones are due for a refresh in 6 months which will give them an expected performance boost of about 30-50%, Medfield will still be in the same ballpark performance. Its definitely a viable option. Plus, a Medfield upgrade will also come out in 9-12 months.

        2. Power consumption on standby -
        Medfield standby - 18mW - compare to iPhone 4S - 38mW & Galaxy S2 - 19mW

        3. Power consumption during 3G web browsing -
        Medfield standby - 1W - compare to iPhone 4S - 1.3W & Galaxy S2 - 1.2W

        Power consumption during 720p video playback -
        Medfield standby - 850mW - compare to iPhone 4S - 500mW & Galaxy S2 - 650mW

        Barring video playback, Medfield actually has better power consumption numbers than iPhone 4S and Galaxy S2. Even in video playback, Medfield is only a little bit higher. Unlike what people have been warning about, Medfield is NOT a power hog and is in fact at par with currently shipping ARM.

        Instead of getting into fanboyism, people should be excited by this news. Firstly, Intel is the small underdog here, while ARM is the 800lb gorilla. Secondly, it sounds like a cliche but competition is almost always A Good Thing. Thirdly, I am personally extremely excited at the idea of a Medfield based tablet - it would give us enough flexibility to run multiple OSes and the millions of legacy x86 apps and games sloshing around in the great wide interweb. It would also allow us to run Win8 when it eventually releases which is also an attractive proposition.

        Lastly, if you put aside the purist RISC/CISC debate, x86 over the years has promoted and ensured an open ecosystem of OSes, applications, websites, and open source projects/communities. For all the goodness that ARM contains, its advent into smartphones and now tablets has caused more walled gardens and vendor lockdowns, not less. The root cause may very well be greedy corporations (heck, even El Goog is turning into one) and nothing to do with ARM per se, but I'm calling it like I see it.

    • Problem solved.

  • Having used (and seen the demise of) PowerVR hardware in the desktop (remember Kyro/Kyro II?) I'm glad to see them in the news regarding their technology being affluent in the mobile market. But the SGX540 is dated to 2007 (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PowerVR#Series_5 [wikipedia.org]). Did Intel get an amazing deal on GPU chips at the discount/liquidation bin, or is this a reliable strategy?
  • by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdotNO@SPAMworf.net> on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @01:40PM (#38665216)

    720p video encoding, 1080p video decoding and 1080p via HDMI are considered stunning features?

    Heck, Apple's been conservative, and the iPhone 4s has got 1080p video encoding, 1080p video decode and 1080p via HDMI. Androids have had it in 2010-2011 (and were mocking Apple the whole time).

    So... the bigger question is - what's the battery life? The performance looks spectacular, but x86 is a notable power hog. And more worringly, I see nothing in the articles about battery life, power consumption, or battery size.

    • I know I might be asking a stupid question, but what pocket device on the market has a 1920x1080 display?
      • by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7@co[ ]ll.edu ['rne' in gap]> on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @02:05PM (#38665484) Homepage

        1080p decode is useful for two things:
        1) Decoding 1080p media and scaling it down to the display in real time, eliminating the need for a reencode. It's inefficient and a waste of space, but still - in some use case it's better than reencoding before loading to the device
        2) HDMI output

      • by Kartu (1490911)
        I'd rather ask "which pocket device on the market has lens that deserve 1920x1080 resolution"
        • by JazzLad (935151)
          Most of the video I watch on my android was not shot on my (or anyone else's) phone. I'l love a screen that high res, although I'd want it much larger than the standard 3-4"
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I'd rather ask "which pocket device on the market has lens that deserve 1920x1080 resolution"

          That's only 2 megapixels...

      • People are buying cables that let them plug their phones into their televisions.

        Example [amazon.com]

    • by Idbar (1034346)
      The problem with "battery life", at least to me is how do they benchmark this. When I first got an iPhone 3, battery life sucked for what I played with the phone, It lasted 2 hours.

      My Galaxy S needs to be charged every night, but overall when I play a lot with the phone, it lasts enough to go through the day.

      It may be that I do less or that battery lasts more or the battery is larger (now I see phones with 1800mAh instead of 1000mAh, from a couple of years back).

      So I think there's a lot to be analyze
    • by grimJester (890090) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @03:45PM (#38666692)
      Here. [anandtech.com]. Looks quite competitive to me.
    • Medfield [extremetech.com] with 2.6W idle, and 3.6W playing 720p video? Numbres they they "hope" to get down to 2W and 2.6W early this year. If they haven't had a breakthrough in their power consumption, expect those phones and tablets to fail in the market as quickly as the Kin & TouchPad, or, if they're persistent, maybe they'll be out as long as the Original Xoom or PlayBook.

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Medfield with 2.6W idle, and 3.6W playing 720p video? Numbres they they "hope" to get down to 2W and 2.6W early this year. If they haven't had a breakthrough in their power consumption, expect those phones and tablets to fail in the market as quickly as the Kin & TouchPad, or, if they're persistent, maybe they'll be out as long as the Original Xoom or PlayBook.

        The whole iPad takes 2.5W going full tilt. That includes the screen and backlight (1.5W) and the electronics (1W).

        Now the SoC itself is taking 2-

        • by asliarun (636603)

          I don't understand how people are speaking with conviction at numbers that are based on guesstimates and hearsay, and to the extent that they have already written off a chip that is just launching. Plus, these numbers seem to be wildly incorrect based on initial actual tests.

          Please see the Anandtech article that contains actual performance and power numbers:
          http://www.anandtech.com/show/5365/intels-medfield-atom-z2460-arrive-for-smartphones [anandtech.com]

          The Intel Medfield SoC idles at 18mW, consumes 1W during 3G browsing

    • 720p video encoding, 1080p video decoding and 1080p via HDMI are considered stunning features?

      Heck, Apple's been conservative, and the iPhone 4s has got 1080p video encoding, 1080p video decode and 1080p via HDMI. Androids have had it in 2010-2011 (and were mocking Apple the whole time).

      So... the bigger question is - what's the battery life? The performance looks spectacular, but x86 is a notable power hog. And more worringly, I see nothing in the articles about battery life, power consumption, or battery size.

      Less power draw than ARM for most tasks, more performance: http://www.anandtech.com/show/5365/intels-medfield-atom-z2460-arrive-for-smartphones [anandtech.com]

  • FFS... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @01:42PM (#38665232) Journal
    Why do people(TFS and TFA notably not excluded) insist on talking about the part in terms of its GPU performance?

    Let's see here... Intel is throwing their hat into the ARM-level power arena... we could discuss how fast their processor is, or we could do a bunch of irrelevant jabbering about how fast the SGX540 that virtually everybody licenses from PowerVR is... Hmm. Hey, let's focus on the part that everybody already knows about and make it even more fascinating by not discussing power for GPU operations; but encode and decode of some (unspecified; but quite possibly a restricted baseline of H.264) 'HD Video' format, and the maximum output resolution!

    It's actually a pretty impressive way to natter on about the product without the slightest mention of what may or may not make it interesting. In other news, it is probably made of silicon, and in some sort of density-optimized epoxy package!
    • Re:FFS... (Score:5, Funny)

      by Sez Zero (586611) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @01:50PM (#38665332) Journal

      In other news, it is probably made of silicon, and in some sort of density-optimized epoxy package!

      But will it have rounded corners? And shiny? Will it be shiny?!?

    • So, fungus, start discussing it...

    • by Guspaz (556486)

      Because it's relevant to the viability of the platform. The SGX540 is not particularly modern or competitive, so it holds back the rest of the platform. The fact that Intel is also licensing a third-party GPU (and talking about their future migration to the SGX543, also third-party) rather than using their own GPU is not particularly reassuring.

      As a pure CPU, Medfield looks pretty decent. As an SoC, it's unimpressive. There's way more to an SoC than the CPU.

      • The fact that Intel is also licensing a third-party GPU (and talking about their future migration to the SGX543, also third-party) rather than using their own GPU is not particularly reassuring.

        Considering it's Intel... that's very reassuring.

        • If the, um, situation with the "GMA500" is anything to go by, people will be begging for an intel GPU(or the sweet embrace of death, which might actually move more polygons per second...)

          That was the previous generation attempt at a very low power Atom platform(also used in the embedded-only CE1400 chips, for set-top boxes), and was also a PowerVR licensed core(Intel's in-house at the time was the GMA950, an entirely different animal). Now, it may have been nice and cool-running; but the driver situation
  • Good, hope to see... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by unique_parrot (1964434) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @01:48PM (#38665302)
    ... an android x86 avd for eclipse soon, which - i expect - should be much faster that the arm emulator !!
  • PowerVR? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jginspace (678908) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {ecapsnigj}> on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @01:52PM (#38665350) Homepage Journal
    PowerVR drivers [fsf.org] anyone?
    • by Guspaz (556486)

      I'd just be happy if PowerVR would release (or bundle) their full OpenGL drivers; nobody other than Intel has licensed them, so all we get is OpenGL ES. Which is nice for apps written specifically for it, but few things in a generic Linux distro are.

      Also, I'd be happy if I could get vsync working on my OMAP4430.

    • This is the nastiest sticking point in mobile hackability. Pretty much everything smaller than a netbook has a PowerVR GPU and if you get an unfixable binary blob driver for your OS of choice from them, you should consider yourself lucky.

  • That's the big deal to me. For a phone to eventually become a serious notebook and desktop alternative it needs to run an appropriate OS and make use of the vast existing application base.

  • Correct me if I'm wrong (and I could be), but AFAIK there is no strong ecosystem for x86 software that is geared toward usage on a touch-screen phone. Granted, Win8 will run X86 and will probably garner some touch-oriented software for the small screen, but it doesn't exist yet. So if I get one of these phones which 'apps' will I run? I suppose there is the Android x86 port, but I would imagine that most of the existing Android apps would fail in that environment.

    • by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @04:17PM (#38667064)

      Correct me if I'm wrong (and I could be), but AFAIK there is no strong ecosystem for x86 software that is geared toward usage on a touch-screen phone. Granted, Win8 will run X86 and will probably garner some touch-oriented software for the small screen, but it doesn't exist yet. So if I get one of these phones which 'apps' will I run? I suppose there is the Android x86 port, but I would imagine that most of the existing Android apps would fail in that environment.

      From Anand:

      "By default all Android apps run in a VM and are thus processor architecture agnostic. As long as the apps are calling Android libraries that aren't native ARM there, once again, shouldn't be a problem. Where Intel will have a problem is with apps that do call native libraries or apps that are ARM native (e.g. virtually anything CPU intensive like a 3D game).

      Intel believes that roughly 75% of all Android apps in the Market don't feature any native ARM code. The remaining 25% are the issue. The presumption is that eventually this will be a non-issue (described above), but what do users of the first x86 Android phones do? Two words: binary translation.

      Intel isn't disclosing much about the solution, but by intercepting ARM binaries and translating ARM code to x86 code on the fly during execution Intel is hoping to achieve ~90% app compatibility at launch. Binary translation is typically noticeably slower than running native code, although Intel is unsurprisingly optimistic about the experience on Android. I'm still very skeptical about the overall experience but we'll have to wait and see for ourselves."

      http://www.anandtech.com/show/5365/intels-medfield-atom-z2460-arrive-for-smartphones [anandtech.com]

      • Awesome - thanks. For some reason I wasn't even thinking about the Dalvik VM. If I hadn't already posted in the thread I'd mod you informative.

    • by Amouth (879122)

      what i love - is (with complete lack of accuracy).. Android is a port of Linux from x86 to ARM.. now they are porting Android from ARM to x86..

  • by unixisc (2429386) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @03:43PM (#38666666)
    Given that Windows on ARM does not have the advantage that Windows normally has - of a gazillion legacy apps, this is the best hope for Windows as yet. At least, this way, some Windows programs can be run, if they can accept touch-screen inputs in addition to the usual keyboard & mouse.

    Normally, this would be a godsend for Motorola, but given its being part of Google and presumably the most favored Android tablet, I'm surprised that they went w/ this solution. Lenovo makes sense, and I'd have expected Dell to jump into this as well - surprised that so far, they haven't. Done right, this could be a serious challenge to RIM, since it would allow one's work environment to be staged, and employees on the go can keep working on their phones somewhat less optimally than on their PCs, but at least get the most urgent things out of the way.
  • I'm really not getting the point of all this effort. OK, sure, its kinda cool that they've got a x86 processor that is small and cool enough to run a phone. But the overall features are only on-par with the existing Android ARM phones of the current generation. The multimedia capabilities are also not substantially different / better.

    If I want to buy a new phone, what's going to make the Intel-based offering better? Yes, it runs a different instruction set at a low level, but the only way in which th

    • by gregrah (1605707)
      I think you've got to look to the future to really understand why this is a good thing.

      Intel has by far the largest R&D budget of any chip maker out there. They've done some amazing things in the desktop and server space recently with their "Core" line, to the point where pretty much no one can touch them at the moment on performance or power efficiency (at that performance level).

      This is only their first release for the smartphone market, and already they are releasing a chip that beats exis
  • Don't they already make ARM chips ? Or was the real story 'x86 Powered...'

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