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Intel goes mobile with Atom Z2460 and this time it's serious

Posted: , by Victor H.

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Intel goes mobile with Atom Z2460 and this time it's serious

Intel has been flexing its muscle at the mobile market in the last five years and after a couple of failed attempts to draw phone makers and platforms to its hardware, ARM clearly has the head start. Intel tried its best with MeeGo, but after Nokia shockingly turned its back on the platform, it’s been practically forced to switch its focus almost fully on Android. Good news is that this time it’s got both Google’s support, the partners and the hardware reference platform to really make an entrance in the mobile market.

Medfield and Intel Atom Z2460:

It’s first bid is the Medfield platform, now referred to as the Intel Atom Z2460 specifically designed for smartphones and tablets. It comes with a single-core, 32nm processor with 512KB of L2 cache, supporting dual-channel memory and clocked at 1.6GHz and coming with hyper threading. 

Intel goes mobile with Atom Z2460 and this time it's serious
While that one core doesn’t seem impressive in a world of quad-core chips at first glance, the initial benchmark scores on the reference platform will quickly make you reconsider your doubts - the CPU performance of the Z2460 easily beats the Samsung Galaxy Nexus with its dual-core TI OMAP4460 and the A5-based iPhone 4S in terms of JavaScript performance. So overall, it’s safe to say that with hyper threading, Intel has managed to outscore dual-core Cortex A9-based chips with its single-core processor, at least in the most common non-intense use scenario.

In terms of graphics, it’s not all that impressive, but the current PowerVR SGX540 GPU (the same one as in TI OMAP4460) included is still on par with most of the competition. It can decode and encode 1080p video at 30fps, and expectations are that by the end of the year Intel could bundle in a more powerful graphical unit.

Why is it any different now? 

But Intel seemed to have had the right hardware even earlier, so why is it any different now? There’s a couple of reasons. 

The first and most important one is that Google has now optimized Android for Intel silicon, and Intel has also centered its attention on Android fixing bugs and tailoring the platform to its architecture. 

Intel's Smartphone Reference Design is a solid base.

Intel's Smartphone Reference Design is a solid base.

Secondly, with that focus came a ramp up in the resources the company invested in its mobile platform. Intel’s mobile chief Mike Bell was given complete freedom to craft the best engineering team picking talent from everywhere within the company. This has resulted in the solid reference platform that Intel shows at CES - a fully functional device that answers criticisms about performance and power consumption.

This reference platform will save partners who choose to use it plenty of engineering time and effort, and allow them to focus on customizing the software (if they wish so). The platform itself won’t be offered to end-users, but looks very stable, responsive and an excellent start. It arrives with a 4-inch screen with a resolution of 600x1024 pixels, support for 1080p videos shot at 30fps on the 8-megapixel camera and processor clocked at up to 1.6GHz. The reference platform scored a solid 3,800 in Quadrant.

Most importantly, Intel claims to have finally busted the power consumption myth and promises six hours of video playback, 45 hours of music and 14 days of standby time on a single charge. The first Intel-based Android smartphone, the Lenovo K800, is expected to use this reference platform.

Barriers on the way:

The one big problem that Intel is still facing is app compatibility. In September last year, Intel and Google announced a partnership allowing devs to address both ARM and x86 architectures when compiling apps, so all recent applications should work without a problem. 

We have a problem, though, when running older games and apps. You could argue that all Android applications run in a virtual machine, so they should be platform-neutral. But then again, most intensive 3D games do refer to native ARM libraries. Intel estimates that some 25% of all Android apps won’t be compatible and that’s where the crux of the problem is. For them, the company says it will do binary translation of the native code on the fly and is painting a rosy-colored picture of the performance of those translated apps, but we’d reserve a fair amount of skepticism until we see such apps run smoothly.

The other big problem might come from the carriers. If Lenovo and Motorola release their first Intel-based handsets by end-2012, they won’t support LTE. Intel’s reference design comes with an Intel 6540 HSPA+ modem and there are no details about when can the first LTE-enabled chips comes. US carriers like Verizon have been very specific about their push of LTE, so the lack of 4G LTE connectivity might prevent devices from landing on some carriers.

Intel goes mobile with Atom Z2460 and this time it's serious
Finally, ARM has confidently stated that Intel will still face power consumption issues. While the power efficiency of the Atom processor seems nearly proven, it’d be interesting to see how the system performs and whether it will live up to expectations.


Overall, it’s been a long journey in the dark tunnel for Intel until now it starts to see the light. With a solid reference platform to prove its architecture can stand its ground, some partners and the focus on Android, we can only look forward to seeing the actual devices. The actual release is still months away, plenty of time to make up our minds, isn’t it?

source: Intel, AnandTech

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posted on 13 Jan 2012, 08:49 1

1. arcq12 (Posts: 733; Member since: 13 Oct 2011)

This has to be power efficient or we wont see a lot of them in the future..

posted on 13 Jan 2012, 08:57 8

2. SuperAndroidEvo (Posts: 4888; Member since: 15 Apr 2011)

To me Intel is very intriguing. They are the best in the desktop realm & if they can incorporate that success & implement it towards their mobile chipsets then watch out. Right now power consumption is an issue with their designs but once that is perfected they will indeed pose a very true threat to ARM. Motorola seems to have some faith in Intel, they are jumping ship with them & I really can't wait to see the fruits of their combined labor.

Intel DOES have an extremely bright future & ARM better bring their "A" game because I believe Intel is here to stay! Intel's jump in to this playground just assured us all one thing, innovation will be pushed to the limits & us the customers will have some VERY exciting products from both ARM & Intel in the very NEAR future.

posted on 13 Jan 2012, 09:28 3

5. remixfa (Posts: 14605; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

thier knowledge is a double edged sword. what works in PC doesnt work in mobile. Its like hiring a new employee. Sometimes its better to start fresh then to hire a guy from the competitors. Why is that? Sometimes you have to untrain them from all their behaviors from company X so they can be retrained to company Y. There are a lot of ingrained ideas from the PC side that intel is no doubt wondering why they dont just automatically work on the mobile side.

Do they have the experience, money, and ability to succeed? absolutely. will they be able to break their old mentality and thought processes enough to succeed? we'll find out.

posted on 13 Jan 2012, 11:22 3

7. SuperAndroidEvo (Posts: 4888; Member since: 15 Apr 2011)

Yeah but that can be applied to anything. Intel knows what they need to do. If they don't know that they have to remedy their power consumption in order to thrive in the mobile market, then they indeed deserve to lose. Everything in mobile comes back to one thing & one thing only, battery life!

They have ARM as a reference & should get lots of help from that aspect. It's not like ARM can reference Intel's prior work since Intel specializes in desktop machines.

Let me put it this way, Intel is really not that far behind the ball. Once they can incorporate 28nm or lower tech they should be able to figure out their power issues fairly quick. Motorola must have demo'ed Intel's stuff & liked it because I don't think they would have made Intel their choice for future products.

I respect Motorola's decision, they have been in the mobile game longer than Samsung, HTC, Apple & so on and so forth. I think they know what they are doing. This is Intel’s first foray into the mobile game, let’s see what they got.

posted on 13 Jan 2012, 11:57 1

8. Baseballer (Posts: 132; Member since: 07 Dec 2011)

Did anyone see that one chip that could work with gesture based things and 3d and stuff like that? that chip in phones with a great battery life would be pretty sick

posted on 13 Jan 2012, 14:51 1

12. SuperAndroidEvo (Posts: 4888; Member since: 15 Apr 2011)

Yeah I know, there is so much stuff coming out that it's going to be very hard to keep up.

I am with you, that would be pretty cool!

posted on 13 Jan 2012, 15:32

14. Baseballer (Posts: 132; Member since: 07 Dec 2011)

yea! Im waiting for 2013 for those chips to be finally put into smartphones. The future is just beyond :D

posted on 13 Jan 2012, 13:17 4

10. remixfa (Posts: 14605; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

Its not their first. They tried to partner with Blackberry way back in the day and they failed miserably then.

interestingly, it points out that intel tried NFC style payment integration years ago. A bit ahead of its time in that regard... so props there.

The problem with any major corporation that has been at the top for a long period of time is that they get unwilling to take major risks, or they assume they always know best. Instead of learning from ARM like they should have, they are taking what they already know and trying to shoehorn it into the mobile space. That has been my issue all a long. x86 processors are going to have compatibility issues out the ying yang and create all sorts of problems for Android that it doesnt need. Why? Because Intel refuses to learn from the market leader and instead insists that it knows better.

Stop and ask your self... what actual benefit does intel bring to the table with its x86 mobile processors? processing power? not really.. battery life? nope.. compatibility? definitely not.. new features? Nope..
Then what is the point?

posted on 13 Jan 2012, 13:51 2

11. SuperAndroidEvo (Posts: 4888; Member since: 15 Apr 2011)

+1 for you, I didn't know Intel tried to jump into the mobile game with BlackBerry. Hopefully from that failure they have learned their lesson.

It would be VERY foolish if Intel makes the same mistake twice. I really think they have learned from their mistake because I really don't see them doing the same thing twice. (I could be totally wrong, but I am giving them the benefit of doubt.) Intel would lose all the credibility they have if the same mistake happened twice!

Until further evaluation, we don't know yet if they have learned from ARM or not. These chips have not made it to the consumer yet. Motorola seems to believe, so there might be some credibility there. I just need to see them in a real world situation to see how it exactly works. Lab testing isn't exactly real world so I am always skeptical, & not just with Intel but with all tech in general. Remember the Xbox 360’s Red Ring of Death, my brother & everyone I knew that got a Xbox 360 suffered, so I waited for the corrected model & I have never had to ship my Xbox 360 for that problem.

You may be right, or you may be wrong, but to say Intel doesn't bring anything to the table might be a little farfetched. ARM themselves say Intel is a STRONG competitor, they respect them so maybe ARM is admitting that Intel might be on to something. You never know. If anything at least it will brew competition, thus leading to innovation. So at the very least we all should agree on that. Remember it has to start somewhere.

posted on 13 Jan 2012, 15:32 1

13. remixfa (Posts: 14605; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

it would be bad business for ARM to come out laughing and pointing at Intel... especially since Intel could just buy them if it so desired. :)

I never said they bring nothing to the table. In fact, ive been trying to shed light on the fact that they might be bringing too much. You can have all the tools in the world, but if u dont have the right ones, then they are useless.

Yes, im always happy about more competition. No doubt about that.

posted on 13 Jan 2012, 09:09 3

3. Bluesky02 (Posts: 1439; Member since: 05 Dec 2011)

In 2013 perhaps we'll see true Intel Mobile chipset. So far they are making good progress.

posted on 13 Jan 2012, 09:26 1

4. McLTE (Posts: 922; Member since: 18 Oct 2011)

This is only GOOD things in the cell phone wars.. if nothing else, Intel will push all the other manufacturers to continue to innovate!

I hope Intel succeeds here.. but what we really need is EFFICIENCY! I don't care so much anymore about numbers.. I'm not a power gamer and I don't care what my quadrant scores are. I want a smooth operating phone that LASTS.

So now I wonder... where is AMD???

posted on 13 Jan 2012, 09:41

6. DKMDROID (Posts: 103; Member since: 09 Aug 2011)

wouldnt this affect the making of custom roms? making it much harder for devs to port updates from early versions of new OS's eg if google had too release the next Nexus phone with an Intel chip?? as much as i love seeing good healthy competition in the mobile industry or am i worried for nothing??? although i am surpised at the power of what is a single core as compared to a dual core from a different company ,just makes me wonder how good a dual core or even quad core varient of Intel's chip would be......

posted on 13 Jan 2012, 12:38 2

9. wsker (Posts: 24; Member since: 02 Dec 2011)

Thats one single core, then, how about quad-core from Intel, gonna be such a beast..

posted on 13 Jan 2012, 15:37

15. thebikerboi2 (Posts: 144; Member since: 01 Apr 2011)

I think intel have a tough year ahead of them, with the new PowerVR series 6, the Mali-t658 GPUS and the ARM Cortex-A15 in the pipeline.

posted on 13 Jan 2012, 18:22

16. belovedson (Posts: 1052; Member since: 30 Nov 2010)

eventually intel will own.

posted on 13 Jan 2012, 18:37 1

17. jasongohjr (Posts: 75; Member since: 26 Sep 2011)

From the look of it and being that it's single core is faster than other dual core phones, I bet Intel will make huge changes to the mobile tech world. Cheers!

posted on 14 Jan 2012, 04:39

18. medcherifmoubiene (Posts: 1; Member since: 01 Dec 2011)

coooooool i can wait to see this on some nokia phones

posted on 17 Jan 2012, 07:43

19. TheLibertine (Posts: 484; Member since: 15 Jan 2012)

For actual apps, internet et cetera most mobile processors hold more than enough power. What is needed in my option is low energy consumption and powerful graphics. Also an "assist core" for simple tasks like the Tegra 3 offers would be an great option.

Sure Intel does great things, (as the Sandy Bridge processors) but they should really try hard, because in the mobile sector they are an outsider and i can do understand, why they are. The netbook processors (Atom) are pretty weak, loosing overall to AMD and being one of the reasons why netbooks could die.

With Cedar Trail and this thingies Intel should go serious and do something good, we all know they can.

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