Intel's unveiling of Atom-based smartphones at CES 2012 is the most serious attempt yet by the chip giant to break into the lucrative handset market and is set to intensify its rivalry with ARM, currently the dominant chip platform in the mobile device space.
At the CES show in Las Vegas, Intel announced partnerships with Lenovo and Motorola to launch smartphones based on its latest Atom processor platform, the Atom Z2460, codenamed Medfield.
Although not expected to ship until later this year, the impending arrival of these handsets could bring competition into a market that has been almost entirely owned by the ARM architecture and its various licensees.
However, details of Medfield and the handsets using it are sparse at the moment. The chip is a single-core 1.6GHz component, but supports hyper-threading, with an integrated PowerVR GPU.
Lenovo's handset, as demonstrated to V3 at CES, combines this with 16GB of memory, a 4.5in display and an x86 version of Android 2.3 Gingerbread.
So far, performance tests of the demo handsets have been impressive, but power consumption is also a critical factor and Intel has yet to disclose full details of Medfield's performance in this critical area, other than stating it is lower than the Moorestown platform of a couple of years ago.
Raw processing performance has always been one area where Intel's x86 architecture has outperformed rivals, but while the Medfield is a single-core chip, ARM licensees are already introducing quad-core designs that promise to boost performance, while consuming no more power than earlier chips.
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