Atom smartphones boosted by Clover Trail+

At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain today, Intel rolled out some Clover Trail+ additions to the Atom family. Intel's existing Clover Trail platform is designed for tablets and has already snuck into some Windows 8 slates and convertibles. The new Clover Trail+ chips will come to tablets, too, but they've also been primed for use in smartphones.

Three processors make up the Clover Trail+ lineup: the Atom Z2580, Z2560, and Z2520. All of them have dual cores based on the current Atom microarchitecture, doubling the horsepower of Intel's older Medfield smartphone platform. Clock speeds will scale up to 2GHz on the Z2580, 1.6GHz on the Z2560, and 1.2GHz on the Z2520. All models feature Hyper-Threading, which allows them to execute four threads in parallel. You also get a dual-channel memory controller with support for up to 2GB of LPDDR2 RAM at 1066 MT/s.

PowerVR's SGX 544MP2 provides integrated graphics grunt, enabling display resolutions up to 1920x1200. The integrated GPU runs as fast as 533MHz on the top model, 400MHz on the middle of the range, and 300MHz on the Z2520. All three implementations include hardware acceleration for 1080p video encoding and decoding at 30 FPS.

Smartphones have become the point-and-shoot cameras of choice for most folks, and Clover Trail+ has pretty robust imaging capabilities. It supports dual cameras and resolutions up to 16 megapixels for the primary shooter. There's a 15-FPS burst mode that can capture 8MP shots, plus support for panorama and HDR modes. Intel even provides real-time facial recognition tech as part of the platform.

While Intel has covered most of the bases in terms of Clover Trail+ features, integrated LTE support didn't make the cut. Intel does offer a 4G-capable XMM 7160 modem, though. This multi-mode solution will begin shipping in the first half of the year.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Clover Trail+ press release and accompanying product documentation (PDF) are devoid of specifics on power consumption. The Clover Trail-based Atom Z2760 has similar specifications and a TDP under 2W, so I'd expect the + models to be in that range. Since the Z2760 is a 1.8GHz chip, the 1.6 and 1.2GHz Clover Trail+ variants are likely to be more power-efficient.

The first smartphone based on Clover Trail+, Lenovo's IdeaPhone K900, is slated to hit China and select international markets in the second half of the year. This Z2580-equipped specimen is only 6.9 mm thick and boasts a 5.5" screen, putting it firmly in phablet territory. The K900 runs Android, and Intel says Clover Trail+ is compatible with version 4.2 of the OS. Additional Clover Trail+ devices are coming from Asus and ZTE, as well.

Looking forward, the Atom is set to make its transition to a new microarchitecture and tri-gate 22-nm transistors later this year. Merrifield is the code-name that applies to the next-gen smartphone platform, while Bay Trail refers to future tablets. Bay Trail looks perhaps the most interesting, with quad cores and the promise of all-day battery life from designs thinner than the ultra-skinny iPad 2.

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