Hands On Intel’s Latest Stab At Mobile Processing

Hands On Intel’s Latest Stab At Mobile Processing

The Medfield codename invoked strange Cloverfield associations for me. Would Intel’s first serious mobile chip be a monster that destroys absolutely everything in its path? Well, the dust has cleared, and we have the Atom Z2460. It’s not going to crush everything else, but it looks damn decent.

Atom Z2460 is a single-core, hyper-threaded processor running at 1.6GHz. The 1.6GHz clock speed should make it fast, and the hyper-threading means it should multitask like a champ. Intel wanted to balance speed with power consumption, meaning this chip wouldn’t be the best of either world, but they were shooting for very good in both. Intel’s rep literally said to me, “We’re not going to be the best, not going to be the worst, but we believe we’re going to be competitive in the high-end smartphone category.” This has got to be the most refreshingly honest pitch I have ever, ever heard. Indeed, there’s no way this thing can stand up to the quad-core processors coming from Nvidia and Qualcomm, but it seems right up there with most of the dual-cores we’ve seen.

Intel put itself together a nice little reference model with a 4-inch screen, an Imagination 540 Graphics Engine, Intel 6260 HSPA+ modem and the usual bevy of accelerometers, sensors, yada, yada, yada. It was presently running a stock version of Android 2.3, and they’re already working on putting Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) on it. This phone will never come to market; it’s just to give us a look at what this chip can do. So, how does it do?

As you can see in the video, it did pretty well. Graphics played very smoothly in the games and the screen was nice and responsive. There is a bit of lag when scrolling around the homescreens, and it certainly seemed noticeably slower than say the dual-core Exynos processor in the Galaxy S II. Not bad, not best. The battery in the reference phone was a 1460mAh, and they said it would get eight hours of voice calls, five hours of web browsing browsing, or 14 days of standby. I’m a wee bit sceptical on that front, but we’ll just have to wait and see until they put this in a phone.

Intel has been working with Lenovo who will be bringing a smartphone sometime in the first half of 2012, but alas, it’s going to be China-only. Fear not, they are also announcing an extended partnership with Motorola who will be launching multiple phones and tablets with Intel chips for guts. The first of these devices will be landing in the US sometime in the second half of 2012.

Lastly, people have expressed worry that introducing yet another chip architecture into the Android ecosystem will only increase fragmentation, with some popular apps being incompatible. I was assured by Intel that this would be a “non-issue”. Joyful joyful. Welcome to the mobile game for real, Intel. Now get out there and make some cool shit!