Android / Intel / Mobile Devices / Mobile Operating Systems / Mobile Processors (SoCs)

Intel: The mobile SoC underdog. What’s up their sleeves?

Intel-LogoThe cool thing about the mobile platform is that the almost all the SoC (system on a chip) contenders have a specific architecture they like to stick to. ARM technologies designs for power efficient Mobile smartphone processors has paved the way for many smartphone SoC manufacturers to come up with some very compelling offerings.

As a result, in the mobile world, we have many more offerings. Unlike in the personal computer market, where Intel reigns supreme, with AMD trailing not too far behind, the competition is not as aggressive. In the mobile demographic, we have giants like nVidia, Texas Instruments, MediaTEK, Huawei, Samsung, Apple, and of course, the biggest giant of them all: Qualcomm battling it out.

This sort of competition, and the growing demand for better performance at lower power consumption, has led to some interesting breakthroughs. Intel has stuck to its x86 architecture which was thought to be inefficient, power-wise. ARM’s architecture was the go-to blueprint for mobile SoC solutions. But Intel has proven us wrong by coming out with some very interesting x86 power-efficient designs.

In response to the other chip giants, Intel unveiled its Medfield platform (the Z2460) last year, and I was mildly impressed mainly because they introduced a single core chip that worked like a dual core due to its “hyper-threading” technology.Surprisingly enough, this chip did really well in benchmarks. It made its way into a handful of devices such as the Orange “San Diego”, the Lava Xolo and the more well known “Motorola Razr I”. Reviews of all these devices, and mainly the Motorola Razr I, have been pretty positive. PhoneArena.com has a pretty interesting review highlighting the strengths of the Motorola Razr I. Feel free to check out this review:

I tend to place device performance directly in proportion to its imaging capabilities. And in most cases, this measuring stick holds true. The more high-end a phone is, the more high-end its imaging capabilities are. With that in mind, Intel has hit some very critical plus points. They’ve been able to offer very decent pricing with SoC’s that display some serious imaging prowess. The Motorola Razr I is a testament to this fact. In comparison to its Motorola Razr M counterpart, this device boasts some really zippy camera abilities. Its fast, its zippy and very reliable. In addition, its cheap, and power consumption has been pretty nominal.

With competition heating up in the High-End market, Intel has done well to attack the midsection to gain some advantage here, And I have a feeling this was a smart move. They are basically giving mid-range devices some high-end muscle where it counts. Consumers in the mid and low range spending spectrum can enjoy some of these high-end features without having to break the bank.

At the end of the day, what counts in the mobile world is un-compromised user experience regardless of price point. Consumers don’t care about benchmark scores. They want to tap on that camera icon on their smartphone and have it ready to take a well-focused,well detailed photo in less than 1 second. They want to hit that dialer icon and and have their dialer app running in 1 second. Its a “1 second” game here. Give consumers this kind of reliability, and they will buy your smartphone. This is what it basically boils down to, when it comes to hardware. Intel has delivered in this respect.

In this sense, I see great potential for Intel, they’ve ticked all the right boxes. Now they just need to incrementally improve. So what does Intel have prepared for this year? Not surprisingly, incremental upgrades. Intel has introduced the Clover Trail+ platform. The “+” basically indicating double of everything (except maybe price, hopefully). I decided to do some research and the website semiaccurate.com seems to have some very useful details.

The difference between the Medfield platform and the Clover Trail + platform is illustrated below, courtesy of semiaccurate.com

Intel CT Medfield comparison Intel doubles up on phones with Z2580 Clover Trail+

The clover trail+ lineup has three versions catering to each market: the super high-end (Z2580), the mid-range (Z2560), and the low-end (Z2520). The basic structure is displayed here:

Intel CT lineup Intel doubles up on phones with Z2580 Clover Trail+

Conclusion: From the specs, it seems Intel knows exactly what the consumer needs. The rules of the game have shifted. Its no longer a “who’s got the highest number of cores” game. Consumers implicit demands haven’t changed. Personally, I would like another player in town. And Intel has the necessary financial and technological backing to be able to pull some serious weight in the mobile industry. In the end, it all depends on how Intel plays its cards. Consumer demands are ever changing, but one thing remains constant. User Experience. And with the increase in social media consumption, mobile platforms have become ruthless when it comes to social media integration and more specifically, embedded imaging technology. Intel is ticking off all the right boxes. I’m definitely hoping to see something great from these guys in the coming years. Go Intel!

For the benchmark aficionados out there, the guy running gsm.tech-maniak.com has some interesting revelations about the Intel Clover Trail+ Z2580 on the one and only device/smartphone currently using it: The Lenovo K900.  Suffice it to say, this thing is a beast of an SoC. Check it out. Thanks for benchmarking the smartphone, dude.

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