Intel catches up with Apple on 64-bit smartphone chips

Intel's new Atom chips code-named Merrifield and Moorefield will be in smartphones during the second half

By , IDG News Service |  Hardware

Intel has finally caught up with Apple with its new 64-bit Atom chips, which should be in Android smartphones and tablets starting as early as the second quarter this year.

Intel is targeting the new dual-core Atom Z34XX chip called Merrifield at tablets and smartphones starting at about US$250 and the quad-core Z35XX chip called Moorefield at more expensive high-performance mobile devices, said Julie Coppernoll, marketing director in Intels mobile and communications group.

Besides longer battery life, mobile devices with the new chips will have better application and graphics performance than older Atom chips, Coppernoll said. Intel is expected to shed light on the new chips at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona this week, where a heavy focus on 64-bit mobile devices is expected.

Smartphones and tablets with Merrifield will be first out of the gate with devices being announced in the second quarter. Mobile devices with Moorefield will come in the second half of this year.

Without naming partners, Intel said many device makers have committed to using the chips.

"We won't announce any customer design wins," Coppernoll said. "We will announce expanded and broad portfolios with Asus and Lenovo."

Foxconn, which manufactures the iPhone and iPad for Apple, will announce expanded use of the x86 architecture, Coppernoll said.

The Merrifield chip will deliver 1.7 times improvement in single-threaded application performance and twice the graphics performance than a previous Atom chip code-named Clover Trail+ released last year, according to Intel. Mobile devices will be able to render high-definition video at up to 60 frames per second.

The improved performance won't sacrifice battery life. Intel has measured two days of battery life on a smartphone with Merrifield, though Coppernoll said that could change depending on the phone design.

The urgency to release new chips came with growing interest in 64-bit Android, which will also bring performance improvements to mobile devices, Coppernoll said.

Intel has finished development of 64-bit Android 4.4, paving the way for device makers to load the OS on handsets with the new chips.

With 64-bit, there will be noticeable improvements in video performance, compression, decoding and other tasks that require a reasonable amount of processing, Coppernoll said. Handsets will also be able to pack more memory than 4GB, which could provide indirect performance improvements.

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