Intel to bring the battle to ARM with new Medfield chips

21 Dec 2011

The smartphone revolution of the past three years has been dominated by UK company ARM but that could be disrupted in 2012 if Intel has its way. Intel will early next year debut Medfield chips, the next incarnation of its Atom family, which it intends to see power top-selling smartphones and tablet computers.

MIT’s Technology Review got its hands on prototype smartphones and tablet computers running on the new chips with Android Gingerbread and Ice Cream Sandwich operating systems.

The ‘reference design’ products, used to encourage and inspire manufacturers, have been sent out to the various companies and the first products sporting the new chips could debut in the first half of 2012, possibly as soon as next month’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

But will the new chips break ARM’s stranglehold on the market for high-end smartphone and tablet devices?

Well, Intel is boasting that these are entire system-on-a-chip processors and according to Technology Review, the devices are powerful enough to play Blu-ray-quality video and stream it to a TV and the Medfield chips have been designed specifically to speed up Android apps and web browsing.

It’s what the chips will enable next year’s app creators to do that will count – the chip enables cameras to do high-speed image processing – they could capture 10, full-size, 8-megapixel images at a rate of 15 per second – and could make the devices ideal for augmented reality apps.

In addition, tests on the new reference designs show that Medfield is capable of faster web browsing and graphics performance and lower power consumption than the top 3 brands in the market.

Battle is about to be joined.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years