Intel's new Atom chip code-named Broxton, slide-shotIntel

Intel updates Atom road map, announcing chips for tablets, smartphones

Intel will release new Atom chips for smartphones and tablets next year as it chases a goal of boosting mobile chip graphics performance by 15 times and CPU performance by five times by 2016.

The 64-bit Atom chips are based on new CPU and graphics cores and will likely appear in smartphones and devices starting in 2015. The new lineup boasts two high-performance mobile chips and the first Atom chip with an integrated modem, which will be for low-priced entry-level devices.

Intel wants to obtain performance leadership with the chips as it continues to improve battery life on devices, said Hermann Eul, vice president and general manager of Mobile and Communications Group at Intel, during a speech at the annual investor day meeting Thursday.

Intel’s chips are used in only a handful of smartphones as it chases market leader ARM, whose processors are used in a majority of smartphones and tablets. Intel’s upcoming mobile chips will be made using its 14-nanometer process, which could bring performance and power benefits.

By the end of 2014, Intel will ship a high-performance mobile chip code-named Cherry Trail, which will be based on an upcoming CPU code-named Airmont. The chip will have Intel’s next-generation graphics.

Cherry Trail will be succeeded by a faster and more power-efficient chip code-named Broxton, which will ship in 2015 and be based on a new CPU core code-named Goldmont. Broxton will have a different chip design compared to its predecessors, and be built into what Intel executives called a “chassis” to which other components can be easily connected.

The Broxton design allows derivatives of the chip to be created at a faster pace, said Intel CEO Brian Krzanich.

Intel Atom chip code-named Sofia due in late 2014, roadmap slide-shot
Intel’s Atom chip code-named Sofia, shown here in a slide from the processor maker, is due in late 2014.

The chips will succeed another high-performance dual-core chip code-named Merrifield, which will appear in smartphones starting next year. Merrifield will be made using the 22-nm process. A quad-core variant of Merrifield will ship in the second half of next year.

For entry-level smartphones, Intel will release a chip code-named Sofia in late 2014. Intel will initially pair an Atom chip with a 3G communications core, which will be upgraded to LTE in 2015. The initial communications core in Sofia will be based on the x86 architecture, Krzanich said.

Intel executives recognized that the company is playing catch up in the smartphone and tablet markets, so it’s trying to speed up the release of mobile chips. Broxton and Sofia are being released earlier than expected.

“Three months ago this wasn’t on the road map,” Krzanich said.

Updated at 9:10 p.m. PT to correct the communications core in the upcoming Atom processor code-named Sofia.

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