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Intel shows off smartphones, tablets running 'Medfield' chips

The company says that its chips will help Android handset makers improve performance and cut down on energy usage.

A look at Intel's recent advancements in Medfield.

Intel has its sights set on ARM, and now, it's showing off some mobile devices to prove it.

Technology Review reported today that it recently had the chance to try out smartphones and tablets running Intel's Atom-based "Medfield" system-on-a-chip. The devices, known as "reference designs," are made to help the company entice handset makers to develop products running its processor. And in this case, they were also designed to provide some insight into what the company has planned.

There is a lot riding on Intel's Medfield processor. For years now, the company has stood by as ARM has cornered the mobile space with its low-powered processors. Intel's options, while powerful enough for many functions, proved to be battery hogs, prompting many handset makers to ignore the company until it could come up with something new.

In an interview with Technology Review, Intel says it has tested its chip against those found in the top Android-based handsets on store shelves today. In each case, its chip delivered "faster browsing and graphics performance and lower power consumption than the top three."

Those claims seemed to match up with Technology Review's time with Intel's reference smartphone. The device, which was running Android 2.3 "Gingerbread" and looks strikingly similar to the iPhone 4S, delivered "fast" Web browsing and "powerful" performance throughout, Technology Review said. On the tablet side, Technology Review found the Ice Cream Sandwich-based slate to be "noticeably nicer to use" than current Honeycomb counterparts.

As smartphones and tablets continue to gain popularity, Intel wants desperately to have a position in that space. Aside from developing its system-on-a-chip, the company has also implemented a sweeping reorganization to refocus its efforts around the mobile space.

Last week, Intel told CNET that the company has created a new mobile business unit, called the Mobile and Communications Group. The group is made up of four divisions--mobile communications, Netbook and tablet, mobile wireless, and ultra mobility--that had been operating separately.

Even with that reorganization, Intel has an uphill battle awaiting it as it tries to take on ARM. Aside from the fact that ARM processors are just about everywhere in the mobile space, tech giant Apple is also a concern. Apple's mobile processors, found in the iPhone and iPad, are ARM-based, which effectively makes Intel's chances of wooing that company nil.

But that doesn't mean that Intel won't find some partners. The company told Technology Review that it plans to announce devices running Medfield at some point in the first half of 2012.