Intel exec says Silvermont trumps ARM in power, performance

Intel executive Dadi Perlmutter responds to ARM's claims of processor superiority over Silvermont

By , IDG News Service |  Hardware

A top Intel executive said the power and performance battle with ARM is over, because Intel's upcoming chips based on its Silvermont architecture are ahead on key metrics required to deliver strong performance and battery life on smartphones and tablets.

Intel's upcoming mobile chips based on the Silvermont are better at power and performance than ARM's fastest Cortex-A15 chips, said Dadi Perlmutter, executive vice president and general manager of the Intel Architecture Group, in an interview at the Computex trade show this week.

"Cortex-A15 is not even close to Silvermont. They are higher power and much behind us on performance which means they are on the wrong scale," Perlmutter said.

The response comes after ARM at Computex claimed processor superiority over Intel, saying its processors are a generation ahead on performance and power draw. ARM made comments about processor superiority when it introduced the new Cortex-A12 processors targeted at smartphones and tablets from US$200 to $350.

"Based on what I've seen on [Cortex] A15 so far, which is the top of the line on performance, it's not anywhere near [Silvermont], not on performance, not on power," Perlmutter said.

Intel is trying to persuade consumers that smartphones and tablets with its chips can compete on battery life and performance with ARM-based mobile devices. ARM processors are used in most smartphones and tablets today, while a handful of mobile devices use Intel x86 chips. Intel hopes for a breakthrough with its low-power Atom chips based on Silvermont, which is the successor to the current Atom architecture. At Computex, Intel talked about the upcoming Bay Trail chip, which will go in tablets starting under US$199, and also showed a prototype smartphone based on its Merrifield chip, which will ship to device makers next year.

Battery life of mobile devices was at the center of the Intel and ARM debate at Computex. ARM's processors were originally designed for mobile devices, while Intel's mobile chips have been scaled down from power-hungry PC chips. As Intel reduces power leakage, ARM is now scaling up processor performance, pitting the two companies against each another in mobile phone, PC and server markets.

Many tablets were announced at Computex with ARM processors, but Intel notched up some tablet wins with its current Atom processors. Asus announced the Fonepad Note FHD6 "phablet" and Samsung separately announced the 10.1-inch Galaxy Tab 3. But ARM said Intel's dominance lies in the PC market, which is declining partly due to growing use of smartphones and tablets for basic computing.

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