Intel Unveils New Low-Power Mobile Chip Designs
Dubbed “Silvermont,” the new design sets its sights squarely on devices like smartphones and tablets, which obviously have limitations on battery life and require system-on-a-chip specifications made with energy efficiency in mind.
The design incorporates Intel’s “tri-gate” 3-D transistor technology first introduced in 2011, which essentially lets the company create smaller, faster processors which can perform at a lower voltage with less power leakage. Intel claims an improvement of around five times lower power consumption over its current Atom core mobile chips, with three times more peak performance.
“We have the ability to monitor what the power delivery characteristics of the platform are,” said Belli Kuttanna, Intel fellow and chief architect, in a briefing with reporters and analysts. From there, “we can change the limits to where the CPU cores are performing and dynamically adjust the power budgets.” In other words, it’ll help decrease battery-life consumption.
The update is yet another move in Intel’s move toward mobile, a space the company has sorely lacked. Historically, Intel’s core strength (so to speak) has been building beefy, high-power processors for desktop computers — chips that have no business in mobile devices.
But as the industry has shifted to mobile over the past few years, competitors like ARM Holdings and Nvidia — which specialize in designing and licensing low-power architecture designs for systems-on-a-chip — have gained solid ground in the chip space, leaving Intel struggling to catch up.
Intel has continually promised to deliver better mobile results soon. At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, the company announced that it will debut new chips aimed at the high and low ends of the Android market.
“We’ve done a lot of work on Android over the past few years,” Dadi Perlmutter, Intel executive VP and chief product officer, said at the briefing. “We’ve shipped 12 different phones to market.”
And as Mike Bell, the head of Intel’s mobile chip efforts said in an interview at D: Dive Into Mobile last month, Intel is getting the hang of building chips for mobile, and claimed that its chips match and in some cases exceed ARM-based chips in certain performance and power-consumption comparisons.
Mobile is clearly a growing priority for Intel, especially as sales of personal computers, a market it dominates, have crashed to historically low levels. The decline has started to hit Intel where it counts: In its quarterly results, which last month showed a year-on-year decline of 25 percent.
Intel’s incoming CEO Brian Krzanich — tapped by its board of directors last week to succeed Paul Otellini, who is retiring — is said to have won the job in a joint pitch with incoming president Renée James that includes using Intel’s world-leading manufacturing capabilities to push chips into emerging product categories like wearable devices.
Intel plans to introduce the new Silvermont technology later this year. Shares of Intel were trading down a penny at $23.95 midday.