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Intel's new Atom chips peak on performance, power consumption

Intel says the Silvermont architecture will break the myth that ARM is more power efficient

By Agam Shah
May 6, 2013 03:04 PM ET

IDG News Service - Intel's upcoming Atom chips with new CPU architecture will be up to three times faster and five times more power efficient than their predecessors and break the "myth" that ARM processors are more power efficient, Intel said.

Intel expects the new architecture, code-named Silvermont, to be in smartphones, tablets, PCs and servers starting this year. Atom chips code-named Bay Trail will appear in tablets this holiday season. They will support the Android and Microsoft operating systems.

Tablet chips based on Silvermont are two times faster on single-threaded performance than comparable chips based on the current Atom architecture code-named Saltwell, said Belli Kuttanna, an Intel fellow during a briefing Monday that was webcast. Using the same metric, Kuttanna said that Silvermont tablet chips use 4.7 times less power than their predecessors.

Bay Trail chips will also appear in hybrid laptops with detachable and folding screens, and in low-cost desktops priced from US$200 to $599. Users can choose between long battery or performance in Silvermount smartphones or tablets, Kuttanna said.

"Silvermont is a complete redefinition of the Atom architecture," Kuttanna said.

Silvermont CPUs can scale up to eight cores and represent the first major redesign of the Atom architecture since the first netbook chip release in 2008. Atom chips with Silvermont will also include new performance and power management features.

Silvermont comes at a time when the chip maker is trying to find its footing in the smartphone and tablet markets. Intel hopes that Bay Trail will attract a new set of PC buyers and give it a legitimate shot to compete against ARM, which rules the smartphone and tablet markets.

 


   Intel slide on Silvermont highlights
Intel slide on highlights of Silvermont, the chip maker's next-gen Atom architecture

Previous Atom chips were panned for poor performance compared to ARM, whose reputation lies with maximizing power efficiency on chips. Intel has maintained that it has already caught up with ARM on power efficiency with the recent Atom chips code-named Medfield, which are used in smartphones.

But during the webcast, Intel Chief Product Officer Dadi Perlmutter said that Atom chips based on Silvermont will offer better performance-per-watt and break the "myth" that ARM processors are more power efficient.

"We see that this kind of solution will be even better," said Perlmutter, who is also the executive vice president and general manager of the Intel Architecture Group.

Silvermont CPUs incorporate a number of improvements. Out-of-order execution enables more efficient processing of instructions via clock cycles and chips will have more internal bandwidth, with a faster fabric that connects the CPU to other processors such as GPUs. In addition, Silvermont is able to move data faster from the shared cache into DRAM, which enables quicker task execution.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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