You may have seen some Medfield related news today - I thought I'd chime in with some of my thoughts on the topic. As a recap, in 2008 Intel introduced its Atom microprocessor - originally designed for MIDs (Mobile Internet Devices) and repurposed for use in netbooks. In 2010 we got a more integrated version of Atom called Moorestown designed for smartphones and tablets. Intel had basically no success with Moorestown, although Pineview (its netbook counterpart) was still used in netbooks. In our original architecture piece I called Moorestown the "two-chip solution that uses five chips". Despite physical real estate requirements, Moorestown could fit into something that was a bit larger than an iPhone at the time. At the time everyone assumed Moorestown didn't make it into a phone because of unreasonably high power draw, but no one was able to back up those claims with actual test data. Intel will tell you that Moorestown never made it anywhere because it lacked platform focus. Intel was off chasing Moblin/MeeGo and Android wasn't a priority. Things have obviously changed since then.

Medfield is the 32nm successor to Moorestown. Intel hasn't disclosed many details about Medfield's architecture, but we do know that it is a more integrated single chip design (compared to Moorestown's "two-chip" solution). We also saw Intel's Medfield reference smartphone and tablet, both running Android, at IDF. While this is still far away from announcing an actual design win, it's clear that Intel is finally making progress in the right direction. Couple these recent milestones with more recent restructuring inside Intel and it looks like the company is finally preparing to really enter the mobile market.

This brings us back to today's news. The information disclosed today came from an investor conference earlier this month. Above is a slide from the aforementioned meeting.

Intel has carefully removed the names of the devices in this chart. Barring any outright deception however, there seems to be potential in Medfield. One would assume that device manufacturers are given access to this (and more) performance data. One might also be able to infer that if Intel does indeed have a Medfield design win (hopefully more than one), then these numbers might be fairly convincing. The war begins in 2012...

Source: Intel [pdf]

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  • PubFiction - Sunday, January 01, 2012 - link

    Ya that is the question. Another problem is the last time I think intel tried to show similar graphs the problem was SHIPPING smartphones by the time anyone takes their product and turns it into a phone ARM will be forward another generation. At that point you will have a low end SOC that probably draws too much power and no one will buy it.

    Intel is a mixed bag with success so we will see. SSDs they got in the game. Graphics at anything other than bottom end they are still a joke despite all the hype about larrabe.
    Reply
  • Matias - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Let's not forget this a future chip compared to current chips. Let's see how the competition changes until it launches! Reply
  • LtGoonRush - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    One big thing I notice is that Intel's power consumption numbers only reflect idle and near-idle workloads. I worry that this means it has the potential for performance, but comparatively high power draw if you actually load the CPU. Reply
  • SlyNine - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Not surprising, Intel has always been about hurry up and idle. Reply
  • tipoo - Thursday, December 22, 2011 - link

    Yeah, I want to see some real world tests already. Its possible that even with a higher load power draw they get to idle faster and so save power on the whole while doing something like web browsing, and we know this will offload video to dedicated hardware. Its all just talk until we have someone actually test it though. It would be quite exciting if they had higher performance at the same battery use as ARM chips.

    Another thing I wonder about is how it would compare to the quad core Tegra 3, being a single core chip itself, and also future A15 designs.
    Reply
  • iwod - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Again, without knowing what shipping smartphones is these figure are completely pointless.

    Graphics better 50% better? I wouldn't believe that is comparing to Apple's A5.
    Much Faster? Properly so, but compare to a Shipping Cortex A8 800Mhz?

    Third in Power Usage? Those in the charts much be the most power hungry ARM chips ever.

    I still believe Intel wont be competitive until 22nm.
    Reply
  • ET - Thursday, December 22, 2011 - link

    I want a phone that could be used on a phone, but docked to a screen and wireless keyboard/mouse and used as a full Windows PC. Since Windows 8 won't provide a full Windows experience on ARM, Intel will be the only choice to realise that dream. Reply
  • N4g4rok - Thursday, December 22, 2011 - link

    We don't know yet whether or not the full windows experience is going to be supported or not. There are for too many rumors going either direction to make a legitimate prediction. Reply
  • Braumin - Thursday, December 22, 2011 - link

    Well, we do know a lit. The only thing up in the air is if the desktop is even going to be available on ARM or not.

    ARM is not going to run x86 apps without a recompile, so instantly you don't have the full windows experience.

    I think by the time Windows 8 comes out, the ARM vs x86 debate will pretty much be over. Intel will likely be the dominant platform for Windows 8 tablets.

    As for phones, that may take a bit longer but Intel will get there. They have the best engineers, and the best chip fabs in the world. It would be pretty hard to believe that they won't overtake ARM based chips.
    Reply
  • dealcorn - Thursday, December 22, 2011 - link

    If Medfield were fatally flawed in its power requirements, Intel's in house council would block presentation of the misleading slide (copy above) from the investor's conference even if each data-point was factually correct. The concern is misled shareholder lawsuits and people getting fired. If you seek some fatal flaw to confirm that it is impossible that Intel could compete successfully with ARM, look elsewhere.

    As far as good words for posts, "ecosystem" sounds great, once had a scientific meaning, and should sound credible until Intel's mobile market share exceeds 50%. "Baggage" does not work because Intel already has that and the article reveals that from a performance and power efficiency perspective Intel already has "baggage" more than covered at 32 nm. Remember, Intel is still trying to show it understands the rules of the mobile game and Medfield may do that. Show time starts at 22nm which is when Intel reveals it's tick tock A-Team.
    Reply

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