Intel Betting Big on Merrifield for Mobile Devices

Intel wants to break into the mobile-device market, which is currently dominated by ARM processors (such as the one onboard the iPad Mini).

Intel did its best this week to deliver on the “Reinvent Mobility” promise it’s been making about its new Haswell chips. There’s just one issue with that: Intel will end up using its “Merrifield” chips in that mobile effort, not Haswell.

Intel formally introduced the Haswell chips at Computex in Taipei over the weekend. Haswell was supposed to come in a dizzying variety of configurations, including ones designed for highly mobile devices; however, Intel only announced chips for desktop machines.

The real mobility revelation came June 4, when Intel unveiled unreleased devices powered by its 22nm Atom system-on-a-chip (SoC)—a quad-core monster that could deliver a 50 percent improvement in overall performance and 300 percent boost in graphics compared to the current generation of Atom chips, at least according to Intel.

The Merrifield SoC also carries an integrated hub for a range of location and environmental sensors, as well as tweaks to device management and security. Merrifield-powered phones won’t hit the market until “Barcelona 2014,” according to Tom Kilroy, the Intel executive making the presentation at Computex, presumably referring to the annual Mobile World Congress conference that takes place in Spain.

Kilroy followed the Merrifield demo with a teaser about “Bay Trail,” the next generation of Intel’s Atom chips for tablets and ultrathin notebooks.

Like Merrifield, Bay Trail is an Atom chip based on Intel’s 22nm Silvermont microarchitecture, and (according to Hermann Eul, general manager of Intel’s Mobile and Communications Group) contains a quad-core CPU and Gen 7 graphics. In theory, Bay Trail will deliver twice the overall performance of current Atom chips and three times the graphics capabilities.

Bay Trail will also support ultra-mobiles running both Android and Windows, include Intel’s XMM 7160 4G LTE multiband network interface, and should be available before Christmas shopping season 2013. Tablets running Bay Trail will cost around $400, Eul said. Intel had earlier estimated that list prices for Bay Trail devices would range between $200 and $500.

The Intel executives refused to say much else about the products that will run either Merrifield or Bay Trail processors.

While Merrifield, Bay Trail and Clover Trail+ all represent significant advances in power and graphics capability for ultra-mobile devices, Kilroy suggested that the Haswell processors that will truly fulfill the company’s promise “to reinvent the laptop with the introduction of our fourth-generation Intel Core processors that were designed from the ground up for the ultrabook and serve as the foundation for a new era of 2-in-1 computing.” Haswell isn’t as power-stingy as Merrifield or Bay Trail, but does increase battery life by 50 percent.

 

Image: Ruslan Grumble/Shutterstock.com

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