Intel to announce first Atom chip redesign

Intel's redesigned Atom will offer performance that gets closer to mainstream laptop processors.

Asus may be eying new Android devices with Intel chips.
Asus may be eying new Android devices with Intel chips. Asus

Intel will detail plans for the first redesign of its Atom processor since its launch in Netbooks five years ago.

On May 6, the chipmaker is expected to announce the Silvermont micro-architecture, which will spawn Bay Trail and Merrifield processors, for tablets and smartphones, respectively.

"Intel Executive Vice President Dadi Perlmutter will...talk about Intel's next-generation Atom micro-architecture targeted at a range of market segments from low power tablets and smartphones, to microservers, the data center, and much more," Intel said in a statement Tuesday.

The new Atom uses a higher-performance out-of-order design, just like Intel's mainstream Core processors, and uses a fast Intel graphics chip, also like its mainstream cousins.

In other words, this is a very different creature from the Atom chip that's been around since 2008.

And the new Atom will integrate up to four processing cores based on the company's 22-nanometer 3D transistor design -- all firsts for an Intel chip that's designed for tablets and small devices.

Maybe most importantly, it will (according to leaked slides) be just as battery friendly as the current Atom.

The redesign is a crucially important step for Intel. Windows 8 tablets will be undoubtedly faster and should be better at multitasking Windows 8 applications -- a sore point for the current Atom.

And this will also present new competition for ARM chip vendors like Qualcomm and Nvidia, which dominate Android devices. Laptops and hybrids from vendors like Acer and Asus are expected to run Android on Intel.

Products with the Bay Trail processor should appear in time for the holiday season. New Android phones using Merrifield processors should emerge by early next year.

The Atom processor debuted in 2008 in Netbooks, which were a a sensation for a while but faded in the face of tablet competition.

New Windows 8 tablets from PC makers like Lenovo should also tap Intel's Bay Trail chip.
New Windows 8 tablets from PC makers like Lenovo should also tap Intel's Bay Trail chip. CNET
About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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