Hands on with Atom-based phones at CES

Lenovo K800 smartphone using Intel's Medfield chip is displayed

Lenovo's K800 smartphone running the Intel Atom processor was put on display at the International Consumer Electronics Show next to a reference design smartphone that could be used by Motorola and other smartphone makers.

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The Lenovo K800 smartphone has an Intel Atom processor (Photo by Matt Hamblen/Computerworld)

The K800 and the reference design model both appeared at Intel's booth, giving users the ability to handle both. Both phones, which run Android 2.3, were lightweight and easy to maneuver.

More importantly, they both run the Atom Z2460 chip, code-named Medfield, which runs at 1.6 GHz. The appearance of the chip marks Intel's entry into smartphone chip after years of delays. The hardware reference designs are available for smartphone makers that might deploy the Medfield chip in their devices.

Intel CEO Paul Otellini announced a partnership on Tuesday with Lenovo and Motorola to use the chip on smartphones. However, Otellini didn't announce any specific plans for Motorola's model, and Motorola officials refused to comment on the Atom agreement or whether the reference design will become an actual phone.

An Intel booth worker demonstrated on the reference design model that he could quickly stop, start and move through a 1080 p video, noting that after hours of use, the device was not hot to the touch. He didn't discuss its battery life, but Intel has held out the chip as being power-efficient.

The same Intel chip was also being used on a Lenovo IdeaTab K2110 tablet running Android 4.0, which is planned for shipment in mid-year, the booth worker said.

While some tablets announced at CES have featured quad-core processors, the Atom chip has a single core, the booth worker said.

The K800 smartphone with a 4.5-in. screen is going to market in China in the second quarter, Otellini said Tuesday. The reference design appeared to have a somewhat smaller screen, but was lightweight and easy to handle.

Some analysts said Intel's announcement with Motorola needs to be taken with some skepticism, since Intel had once announced that Atom chips were coming on LG phones, but have not. "I have to see the Motorola phone on Atom before I believe it," said Kevin Burden, an ABI analyst.

Want more on CES? See our roundup of everything you need to know from CES and our interactive chart of top CES product launches.

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Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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