Intel introduces Silvermont, the future of smartphones and tablets

New low-power core architecture will find homes in mobile devices, notebooks, network devices

A few days before the Computex trade show in Taiwan, Intel has announced the launch of a new processor architecture, called Silvermont, designed to be used in smartphones, tablets, and other low-power devices including entry-level notebooks.

Where Intel’s current low-power CPU architecture — Atom, available as the Clover Trail system-on-chip in entry-level Windows 8 tablets like the Dell Latitude 10 and the Intel-backed Motorola RAZR I smartphone — has comparable performance to the more common ARM processors of most tablets and smartphones, it makes big sacrifices in battery life and low-power features to achieve this parity.

Silvermont, which will be implemented in tablets and smartphones within the next few months as the Bay Trail system-on-chip family, will offer three times the peak performance of Atom, while also supporting the same level of performance as Atom at one fifth of the power consumption. Intel says the architecture offers ‘industry-leading’ performance per Watt, although this claim is based on theoretical comparisons of its yet-to-be-released designs and main ARM competitors.

Intel is talking up the ‘enhanced power management capabilities’ of its new chips, with new low-power states support added to Silvermont’s arsenal. This means portable devices with greatly increased standby and sleep battery life, with the possibility of ‘instant-on’ smartphones and tablets with days or weeks of standby battery. ARM’s mobile architectures of the past few years have had support for a wider range of states and better per-Watt efficiency at low power, leaving Intel’s best efforts lagging behind in the increasingly-competitive consumer and business mobile device market.

Silvermont is based on the 3D tri-gate transistor technology that formed the basis of the performance increase between second- and third-generation Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge processors, although that implementation was a more basic one than the ground-up Silvermont re-design. In Ivy Bridge, tri-gate development was responsible for doubling performance per Watt.

As well as making a splash in tablets and smartphones, Silvermont means a new system-on-chip standard for enterprise computing — servers, network-attached storage devices, and network infrastructure will all get the same per-Watt performance boost from new Avoton and Rangeley processors based on a variant of the Silvermont architecture.

Silvermont’s announcement comes just after the release of more info on the company’s mainstream Haswell fourth generation Core processors for Ultrabooks, laptops and desktop PCs. Haswell processors are generally expected to offer twice the vector performance and a minimum of 10 per cent overall performance boost compared to existing third-generation Ivy Bridge CPUs, as well as a massive increase the performance of the onboard graphics chipset.

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Campbell Simpson

Campbell Simpson

PC World
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