A much needed architecture shift
It has been almost exactly five years since the release of the first Atom branded processors from Intel, starting with the Atom 230 and 330 based on the Diamondville design. Built for netbooks and nettops at the time, the Atom chips were a reaction to a unique market that the company had not planned for. While the early Atoms were great sellers, they were universally criticized by the media for slow performance and sub-par user experiences.
Atom has seen numerous refreshes since 2008, but they were all modifications of the simplistic, in-order architecture that was launched initially. With today's official release of the Silvermont architecture, the Atom processors see their first complete redesign from the ground up. With the focus on tablets and phones rather than netbooks, can Intel finally find a foothold in the growing markets dominated by ARM partners?
I should note that even though we are seeing the architectural reveal today, Intel doesn't plan on having shipping parts until late in 2013 for embedded, server and tablets and not until 2014 for smartphones. Why the early reveal on the design then? I think that pressure from ARM's designs (Krait, Exynos) as well as the upcoming release of AMD's own Kabini is forcing Intel's hand a bit. Certainly they don't want to be perceived as having fallen behind and getting news about the potential benefits of their own x86 option out in the public will help.
Silvermont will be the first Atom processor built on the 22nm process, leaving the 32nm designs of Saltwell behind it. This also marks the beginning of a new change in the Atom design process, to adopt the tick/tock model we have seen on Intel's consumer desktop and notebook parts. At the next node drop of 14nm, we'll see see an annual cadence that first focuses on the node change, then an architecture change at the same node.
By keeping Atom on the same process technology as Core (Ivy Bridge, Haswell, etc), Intel can put more of a focus on the power capabilities of their manufacturing.
In addition to Intel's announcement of new Xeon processors, the company is launching three new Atom-series processors for servers later this year. The new processor lineups include the Intel Atom S12x9 family for storage applications, Rangeley processors for networking gear, and Avoton SoCs for low-power micro-servers.
The Intel Atom S12x9 family takes the existing S1200 processors and makes a few tweaks to optimize the SoCs for storage servers and other storage appliances. For reference, the Intel Atom S1200 series of processors feature sub-9W TDPs, 1MB of cache, and two physical CPU cores clocked at up to 2GHz. However, Intel did not list the individual S12x9 SKUs or specifications, so it is unknown if they will also be clocked at up to 2GHz. The new Atom S12x9 processors will feature 40 PCI-E 2.0 lanes (26 Root Port and 16 Non-Transparent Bridge) to provide ample bandwidth between I/O and processor. The SoCs also feature hardware RAID acceleration, Native Dual-Casting, and Asynchronous DRAM Self-Refresh. Native Dual-Casting allows data to be read from one source and written to two memory locations simultaneously while Asynchronous DRAM Self-Refresh protects data during a power failure.
The new chips are available now to customers and will be available in OEM systems later this year. Vendors that plan to release systems with the S12x9 processors include Accusys, MacroSAN, Qnap, and Qsan.
Intel is also introducing a new series of processors --- codenamed Rangeley -- is intended to power future networking gear. The 22nm Atom SoC is slated to be available sometime in the second half of this year (2H'13). Intel is positioning the Rangeley processors at entry-level to mid-range routers, switches, and security appliances.
While S12x9 and Rangeley are targeted at specific tasks, the company is also releasing a general purpose Atom processor codenamed Avoton. The Avoton SoCs are aimed at low power micro-servers, and is Intel's answer to ARM chips in the server room. Avoton is Intel's second generation 64-bit Atom processor series. It uses the company's Silvermont architecture on a 22nm process. The major update with Avoton is the inclusion of an Ethernet controller built into the processor itself. According to Intel, building networking into the processor instead of as a chip on a separate add-on board results in "significant improvements in performance per watt." These chips are currently being sampled to partners, and should be available in Avoton-powered servers later this year (2H'13).
This year is certainly shaping up to be an interesting year for Atom processors. I'm excited to see how the battle unfolds between the ARM and Atom-based solutions in the data center.
Subject: Mobile | February 7, 2013 - 11:43 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: z2760, video, Thinkpad, tablet 2, tablet, Lenovo, clovertrail, atom z2760, atom
The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 just arrived at our office this week and before our full review we wanted to show our readers a quick overview on the design, features, accessories and performance of this 1.3 lbs Intel Atom Z2760 based computer. Running a full version of Windows 8 Pro, and not the somewhat limited Windows RT found on the MS Surface and ASUS VivoTab RT, the Tablet 2 (horrible name not withstanding) looks to be a pretty interesting device for users that want x86 compatibility and mobility.
Enjoy the video preview below!
Subject: General Tech | January 8, 2013 - 11:28 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SoC, smartphones, Intel, atom z2420, atom
Intel recently announced a new Atom-series Z2420 processor aimed at low-cost smartphones. The new System on a Chip will complement the existing Medfield and Clover Trail+ line – which are for higher-performance devices – by being aimed at the low cost phones in developing markets. The Atom Z2420 combines a CPU, L2 cache, GPU, memory controller, cryptography engine, image signal processor, and fixed function hardware used for video encoding and decoding. The chip is designed to be low power and is manufactured on Intel’s 32nm High-k metal gate process technology. According to Intel, the Co-PoP package measures 12 mm x 12 mm making it suitable for the intended smartphone form factor.
Specifications include a single core processor with 512KB of L2 cache running at 1.2 GHz that supports Intel’s HyperThreading, Burst, and low power C6 state technologies. With HyperThreading, it can utilize two threads and with Burst, the processor can dynamically scale frequency to balance power usage and CPU load. The Intel GMA GPU uses PowerVR SGX540 graphics cores clocked at 400 Mhz. It is compatible with OpenGL ES 2.0 and OpenVG 1.1. The GPU is rated at 40 MTS peak polygons and a 2000 MPPS peak fill rate. Additionally, the SoC features hardware that can hardware encode/decode 30 FPS 1080p video in H.264, H.263, and MP4. Further, the hardware can hardware accelerate decoding of VC1, WMV9 but it cannot hardware accelerate encoding of those two additional formats. The Atom Z2420 SoC supports dual channel LPDDR2 memory clocked at 400 MHz. The Image Signal Processor (ISP) can support a 1.2MP and 8MP front and rear cameras. The SoC can support 15 FPS burst capture, video image stabilization, and HD video recording.
Intel has positioned the Atom Z2420 SoC at the Android operating system, and has even built a reference smartphone with the new processor. Acer, Lava, and Safaricom are among the companies lined up to produce future budget smartphones with the new SoC. Unfortunately, Atom Z2420-powered smartphones are not headed to the United States. Intel is sticking to developing markets suchs as India, Latin America, and Africa. Here's hoping next year Intel (finally) feels its mobile (smartphone) hardware is ready to compete with the ARM giants and that it pushes for Atom-powered smartphones in additional countries (including the US). Until then, you can find more information on the current generation Z2420 in the press release (PDF).
PC Perspective's CES 2013 coverage is sponsored by AMD.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: Processors | January 6, 2013 - 05:09 PM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: valleyview, low power, Intel, Bay Trail, atom
When the original Intel Atom hit the scene, it was a reasonably large success for Intel with the massive explosion of netbooks. The original design was very simplistic, but was fairly power efficient. The weak link of the original Atom was the 945 chipset graphics that were not only underpowered, but were based on a relatively power hungry desktop chipset. The eventual competition from AMD featured a next generation low power core based on the Bobcat architecture which featured a modern graphics core that was more than adequate for most scenarios.
Intel never stood still, but their advancement of the low power cores was slow as compared to the massive leaps and bounds we saw from the original Core architecture in 2006 on the desktop and server markets. Typically these products lagged the desktop products in terms of process nodes, but they continued to advance these cores little by little.
Leap forward a few years and we saw the eventual demise of the netbook and the massive uptake of mobile computing. Mobile computing was primarily comprised of tablets and smartphones. Intel was late to the party as compared to products from Qualcomm, Samsung, and NVIDIA. A fire was lit under the Atom group at Intel, as the competition had far surpassed the company in ultra-mobile parts.
Happily for those of us paying attention, the 3D Center Forum has released some very interesting slides about the 22 nm generation of Atom products and the platforms they will be integrated into. Valleyview is the SoC while Bay Trail is the platform.
Valleyview is based on Intel’s 22 nm process and will be a next generation Atom processor with a multitude of new features. It will be a SoC as it will no longer require a traditional southbridge. It will have improved graphics as compared to the most recent Atom processors. While the SoC will feature USB 3.0, it will not embrace SATA-6G or PCI-E 3.0. The CPU will go up to quad core units that will be 50% to 100% faster than current parts. These new chips will also introduce a boost functionality (think desktop Turbo Boost) that will run the frequency equal to or greater than 2.7 GHz.
Power is of course the primary concern, and these products will be offered from 3 watts and below (Bay Trail T) and up to 12 watts (Bay Trail D) These products will not be competing with the Haswell products which are rumored to get around 10 watts at the very lowest.
While Intel has been slow to react to the mobile push, they are starting to get that ball rolling. It will be very interesting to see if they can move fast enough to outrun and outwit the ARM based competition, not to mention AMD’s latest 28 nm products that will be released in the first half of 2013.
Subject: Systems | January 4, 2013 - 07:59 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: arm, Intel, krayt, atom, qualcomm, cortex a15, tegra 3
AnandTech managed to get their hands on an Samsung designed ARM Cortex A15 processor powered tablet, which they compared to several competitors such as Intel's Atom, Qualcomm's Krait and NVIDIA's Tegra 3. The test names may seem unfamiliar with Sunspider, Kraken and RIABench providing performance comparisons though the power consumption tests will be familiar to all. Read on to see how the next generation of chips from the main contenders for your mobile device spending compare.
"The previous article focused on an admittedly not too interesting comparison: Intel's Atom Z2760 (Clover Trail) versus NVIDIA's Tegra 3. After much pleading, Intel returned with two more tablets: a Dell XPS 10 using Qualcomm's APQ8060A SoC (dual-core 28nm Krait) and a Nexus 10 using Samsung's Exynos 5 Dual (dual-core 32nm Cortex A15). What was a walk in the park for Atom all of the sudden became much more challenging. Both of these SoCs are built on very modern, low power manufacturing processes and Intel no longer has a performance advantage compared to Exynos 5."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- iBUYPOWER Chimera 4SE Desktop Gaming PC @ Tweaktown
- Improving the PC as a gaming platform: the hardware @ The Tech Report
- Cyberpower Gaming Battalion 502 Windows 8 PC Review (FX 4170 / Radeon 7770) @ Kitguru
- HP Envy 23-d060qd TouchSmart Review @ TechReviewSource
- E3iO Snack Series SK02 Desktop PC Review @ Ninjalane
- Antec ISK110 VESA Mini-ITX Desktop @ techPowerUp
Subject: General Tech | December 11, 2012 - 07:48 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: 32nm, 22nm, tri-gate, Intel, atom, Avoton
Intel's Atom S1200 line of chips are obviously designed to compete with ARM's upcoming 64bit chips in the server room. The family of processors will all be under 10W TDP, with the top chip, the Atom S1260, which is a dual core 2GHz part that produces 8.5W. The three chips they have released are on the older 32nm process but according to EETimes you can expect new models using the 22nm tri-gate processors in the near future. From what The Register could find out Intel has not yet ruled out LGA models as well as the embedded chips you will be seeing first. They did pin down some more stats, with the new Atoms supporting DDR3 1333MHz and support eight lanes of PCI Express 2.0, what they will not be able to support on chip is network connectivity, these chips will still be at least partially dependent on other chips for some of their features so they are not truly an SoC, yet.
"CHIPMAKER Intel has released its Atom S1200 series aimed at low power single socket servers.
Intel's race to meet ARM in the low power server market has seen the firm push its Atom branded chips into sub-10W territory while supporting 64-bit memory addressing and ECC memory. Now the firm has released three dual-core chips that make up its Atom S1200 series, all sporting sub-10W TDP."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Asustek refutes rumors about adopting ARM platform from VIA @ DigiTimes
- TSMC and Global Foundries Plan Risky Process Jump As Intel Unveils 22nm SoC @ Slashdot
- Flexible graphene transistor breaks new records @ NanoTechWeb
- Valve chief confirms Steam-centric console-killing PC @ The Register
- New transistor tech could beat silicon and save Moore's Law @ The Register
- Dell tunes up servers for high freaky traders @ The Register
- Ninjalane Podcast - Forced Obsolescence, No More LGA? And Mainstream Watercooling
- IBM achieves 25Gbit/s photonics breakthrough @ The Inquirer
- Killer Wireless-N 1202 Mini PCIe NIC Review @ Hi Tech Legion
- AMD bites bullet, slashes chip orders @ The Register
- Modding article - How to build a tiny Arcade Cabinet based on a classic Nintendo hardware at Metku.net
- Simulating CRT or Vector displays for more realistic emulation @ Hack a Day
- Holiday 2012 Workstation Buyer's Guide @ AnandTech
- Stanley FatMax LEDLISL and HIDLISL Lithium-Ion Spotlight Double Review @ ModSynergy
- Win silent goodies with BeQuiet! decorate hardware! @ Kitguru
- The Tech Report's 2012 Christmas gift guide
Subject: General Tech | October 29, 2012 - 12:00 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SoC, saltwell, Intel, hyperthreading, cedarview, atom
Intel has launched a new Atom-series processor called the Atom D2560. It is a 32nm processor based on the Saltwell microarchitecture, and it replaces the D2550 as the top chip in the lineup.
The D2560 has two x86 cores clocked at 2.0 GHz with support for Intel’s HyperThreading technology for four total threads. The Atom CPU supports SSE2, SSE3, and SSSE3 instructions. Further, it has 1MB of L2 cache. CPU cores are not the only thing Intel has packed into the Atom chip, however. A GPU clocked at 640 MHz and integrated memory controller are also included. The Atom IMC supports a single channel of DDR3 clocked at 1066MHz – with a maximum of 4GB with a single DIMM.
The D2560 has a 10W TDP rating and is available to OEMs for $47 per 1000 chips (tray pricing).
Learn more about Intel’s Atom-series processors at PC Perspective.
Subject: Systems, Mobile | October 19, 2012 - 05:14 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, tablet, saumsung, Ivy Bridge, Intel, clover trail, atom, ativ 700t, ativ 500t
Samsung is the latest company to announce its fleet of dock-able tablet computers running the full version of Windows 8. Launched under the ATIV Smart PC brand, the company is offering up two models depending on the amount of computing horsepower you need to get work done. Specifically, Samsung is launching the Series 5 ATIV Smart PC 500T and the Series 7 ATIV Smart PC Pro 700T. Both models will be available for purchase on October 26th for $749.99 and $1,199.99 respectively.
Samsung Series 5 Slate: ATIV Smart PC 500T
The Samsung Series 5, also known as the ATIV Smart PC 500T is a 11.6” tablet powered by Intel’s recently released Clover Trail-based Atom processor platform. It measures 11.6” x 7.2” x 0.38” and weighs 1.65 pounds.The tablet features a LED-backlit touchscreen display with a resolution of 1366x768. A 2.0 megapixel camera and dual 0.8W speakers are also included. The tablet itself can further be paired with a keyboard dock that has a full qwerty keyboard and touchpad.
Internal specifications include an Intel Atom Z2760 processor (running at 1.5 GHz and featuring dual cores with 256 KB each), 2GB of DDR2L memory, and a 64 GB solid state drive. Radios and networking gear includes 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0. [The specifications sheet further claims Gigabit LAN support but there does not appear to be any Ethernet jacks on the tablet so I’m assuming it’s solely marketing to say that it supports connecting to a Gigabit LAN (over Wi-Fi)...] The 500T is powered by a two cell, 30 watt-hour lithium-polymer battery.
The external IO ports include a micro HDMI port, one USB 2.0 port, a combination headphone/mic jack, a microSD card slot, and a docking connector.
The Samsung ATIV Smart PC 500T will come pre-loaded with the 32-bit version of Windows 8. The tablet itself is $649.99 and with the keyboard dock, it will be $749.99.
Samsung Series 7: ATIV Smart PC Pro 700T
If you need more computing power, Samsung is offering up its newest Series 7 slate, the ATIV 700T. This tablet is slightly thicker than the 500T at 11.6” x 7.2” x 0.5”. It is also a bit heavier at 1.89 pounds versus 1.65 pounds with the 500T. That tradeoff in size nets you significantly better hardware, however. It features a LED-backlit touchscreen with a resolution of 1920x1080. It further includes the same 1.6W (2 x 0.8W) stereo speakers, but adds a second 8MP rear camera in addition to the 2MP front facing webcam.
Internally, the 700T is packing an Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5-3317U processor. This chip is a dual core part with HyperThreading for a total of four threads along with 3 MB of L3 cache. The 700T features 4 GB of DDR3 at 1600MHz and a 128GB solid state drive. Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi also comes standard. The 700T also has a larger 4 cell Li-Po battery (rated at 49 Wh) to power the faster Intel processor.
External IO includes one micro HDMI, one USB 3.0, a combination headphone/mic jack, docking connector, and a micro SD card slot.
The Series 7 ATIV Smart PC Pro 700T comes bundled with a dock as standard and it has a starting price of $1,199.99. It will come pre-loaded with the 64-bit version of Windows 8.
Read more about Windows 8 convertible tablets at PC Perspective.
Subject: Mobile | October 9, 2012 - 12:09 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, tablet, microsoft, Intel, iconia w510, atom, acer
Earlier this month, Acer announced its Ivy Bridge powered W700 tablet, and now it is time for its little brother to be announced: the Iconia W510 convertible tablet.
The Iconia W510 is a 10.1” tablet that will run Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 operating system and any x86 applications. The tablet itself is 1.27 pounds and 0.35” thick. On the outside, the W510 features a LED backlit IPS display with resolution of 1366 x 768 that can accept touch input and is protected by Gorilla Glass 2. Also present are two speakers, as well as a 2MP front facing camera and 8MP rear camera. Both of the cameras are capable of recording 1080p video.
Ports on the Iconia W510 include a microSD card slot, micro HDMI video output, and a micro USB 2.0 port.
Internal specifications include an Intel Atom Z2760 Clover Trail processor (which we recently reviewed) with two cores running at 1.5 GHz, 2GB of RAM, and either a 32 GB or 64 GB solid state drive (SSD). This configuration should result in a decent system for web browsing and running Office 2013, among other everyday tasks. It will not be nearly as speedy as the Ivy Bridge-powered W700, but this tablet is also coming in at a much lower price point.
In addition to the tablet itself, Acer will be selling a keyboard dock. The $150 keyboard docks adds a physical keyboard, trackpad, and second battery. The dock also adds one additional (full size) USB 2.0 port.
Without the keyboard dock, Acer is claiming 9 hours of battery life. With the dock connected, Acer is further claiming that users will get up to 18 hours of battery life.
There will be at least three SKUs of the Acer Iconia W510 tablet. It will be available for purchase in the US and Canada on November 9th. The W510-1674 will feature a 32GB SSD and no dock at a MSRP of $499.99. The W51-1422, on the other hand, will have a 64GB SSD and a bundled keyboard dock for $749.99 (MSRP). Finally, corporate customers will be able to purchase a W510P SKU with a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) and a two year warranty for $799.99.
You can find more photos of the Icona W510 along with the full press release over at Engadget.
Read more about upcoming Windows 8 tablets at PC Perspective.