Intel is finally starting to take the mobile market seriously, three years too late for anyone to care. The chipmaker has finally revealed its next generation Silvermont microarchitecture, and although it is late to the party, it looks like an impressive piece of tech.
For years Atoms were built using ancient architectures and off the shelf chipsets, but Silvermont is a different beast. It is a 22nm system-on-a-chip and it is the first Atom to use out-of-order execution. It also features 3D tri-gate transistor technology and a very scalable design, which means Intel could theoretically come up with eight-core parts. Some Silvermont parts will use graphics derived from Intel’s HD 4000 core, used in Ivy Bridge chips, which means they should end up quite fast.
Basically Intel crammed Silvermont with the latest tech it has to offer, and that’s what makes it significant. Intel is finally taking ARM seriously.
In terms of performance, the new microarchitecture is three times as powerful as the cores used in current Atom SoCs, which are already capable of holding their own against many ARM chips. Silvermont chips can wipe the floor with the current crop of ARM SoCs with relative ease.
The added performance doesn’t come at a price. In fact, Intel says the new chips can cut power consumption five times compared to existing Atoms running at the same performance level. Performance per watt is crucial in smartphones and tablets. It was Intel’s undoing for years, but it seems to have nailed it at last.
Silvermont will appear in several flavours. Merrifield chips will cater to smartphones, while beefier Bay Trail chips are reserved for tablets. Avoton will take care of microsevers. Merrifield and Bay Trail should basically deliver the performance of three to four year old PC chips to tablets and phones, which sounds very impressive indeed. It has the potential to transform Microsoft’s fledgling Windows 8 into a proper tablet operating system, which means Silvermont is yet another nail in the Windows RT coffin.
The bad news? We’ll have to wait a bit longer to see what Intel has cooked up for the ARM gang. Silvermont phones will show up sometime next year, which means ARM will continue to dominate the market for the time being. Bay Trail tablets are expected later this year, running Windows 8.1 and Android.