Intel unveils smartphone-bound Atom Z34, Z35 series, new LTE modem

The Mobile World Congress kicks off this morning in Barcelona, Spain, and Intel has taken the opportunity to announce a new pair of smartphone-bound Atom systems-on-a-chip—not to mention a new LTE wireless modem.

You might have heard about the Atom Z34- and Z35-series chips under the code names Merrifield and Moorefield, respectively. These are based on the same CPU architecture as Intel’s tablet-oriented Bay Trail Atom chips, and they’re built on the same 22-nm fab process with tri-gate transistors. Unlike Bay Trail, however, Merrifield and Moorefield feature Power VR Series 6 integrated graphics, and they’re designed to power Android phones.

Merrifield and Moorefield will succeed the existing Clover Trail+ platform. This slide from Intel’s presentation shows the differences between Merrifield and Clover Trail+:

Compared to its predecessor, Merrifield offers a higher peak clock speed, an architecture with out-of-order execution and 64-bit compatibility, faster integrated graphics processor programmable with the OpenCL and RenderScript APIs, support for LPDDR3 memory, an improved image signal processor, and a brand-new video signal processor that supports hardware VP8 encoding and decoding. Not mentioned in the slide above is an integrated “low power sensor solution” that, according to Intel, allows Merrifield to “deliver contextual information to apps with motion & gesture sensing, audio sensing, location sensing and contextual analyses [without] draining the battery.”

Moorefield is very similar to Merrifield, except that it has two more cores, supports for faster memory, and the ability to drive higher-resolution displays. This slide compares the two offerings:

How do Merrifield and Moorefield stack up against the competition? We haven’t had the opportunity to run our own benchmarks yet, but Intel quoted some numbers in its presentation. The numbers compared an Atom Z3480 (Merrifield) reference design to an Apple A7-powered iPhone 5S and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800-powered Samsung Galaxy S4 in several tests: WebXPRT, MobileXPRT, BatteryXPRT, and GFXBench. The upcoming Atom chip seemed to perform rather well:

In part, Intel credits Merrifield’s high Turbo performance for the good battery-life results. “Most things on the web are lightly threaded if not single-threaded,” says Matt Dunford, Intel’s Worldwide Client Benchmarking Manager. Because Merrifield completes single-threaded tasks quickly, it’s able to spend more time in an idle state, which can result in lower overall power consumption. Intel has a name for this blend of speed and power-efficiency: HUGI, short for “hurry up and get idle.”

Merrifield (and Moorefield) could perform even better in future, 64-bit apps. In a handful of pre-release 64-bit tests, Intel claims that Merrifield saw a 14-34% performance boost from the switch to 64 bits. However, Dunford pointed out that, while Android 4.4 KitKat already has a 64-bit kernel, user-space applications have yet to be ported. Fully 64-bit Android devices aren’t a thing just yet.

Now, Merrifield probably won’t compete solely against existing chips. Other next-gen SoCs should come out this year, some perhaps even later this week at the Mobile World Congress. Those offerings could perform a fair bit better than the Snapdragon 800 and Apple A7, both of which came out in 2013. For the record, Intel expects the first devices based on the Atom Z34 and Z35 series debut in the second quarter of this year.

Accompanying the new Atoms will be the XMM 7260, a new LTE modem that enables transfer speeds of up to 300 Mbps thanks to carrier aggregation. The XMM 7260 supports FDD and TDD wireless standards as well as 3G (WCDMA and HSPA+), Chinese 3G (TD-SCDMA and TD-HSPA), and EDGE. A single model will be able to tap into as many as 22 bands. For that reason, Intel says the XMM 7260 will allow device manufacturers to build a single phone that can work worldwide. The XMM 7260 is currently being certified by tier-one operators, the chipmaker says.

Comments closed
    • JdL
    • 6 years ago

    How powerful is the Apple A7? At 1.3-1.4 GHz, it’s on par with the 2.0+ GHz next-gen Intel CPU, as well as the 2.2 GHz Snapdragon!

    VERY impressive architecture. Imagine scaling it to 2 GHz or beyond.

    • DancinJack
    • 6 years ago

    What I really want is that LTE modem.

    • DancinJack
    • 6 years ago

    WHERE is Neely at?

      • uni-mitation
      • 6 years ago

      1-8Get-Neely

      • MustangSally
      • 6 years ago

      Out picking up more beer-n-wings for dpaus, I think

        • NeelyCam
        • 6 years ago

        ^This

    • jdaven
    • 6 years ago

    A new Imagination Technologies GPU tech was announced too.

    [url<]http://www.anandtech.com/show/7793/imaginations-powervr-rogue-architecture-exposed[/url<] It's supposed to give mobile Kepler a run for its money.

      • nico1982
      • 6 years ago

      More like ‘detailed’. Rogue has been know to be inbound since, what, 2011?
      Honestly, between this benchmark and its debut in the latest Apple’s SOC, it has been a bit underwhelming considering it raised to almost mythical status while under wraps. Looks like Mali did catch up quite a bit, too.

        • jdaven
        • 6 years ago

        IT’s technology is licensed just like ARM so it is up to others when and how is used. And how can something be inbound but also debut in a product?

          • nico1982
          • 6 years ago

          Rogue/PowerVR Serie 6 was unofficially announced at CES2012 but there were rumors about it well before that, and today we finally got more details about it, that’s all I’m saying. Did I misunderstand/miswrote something?

        • Ninjitsu
        • 6 years ago

        Well, not quite. PowerVR 6 is already out and implemented, PowerVR 6XT is what is inbound and detailed. Slight difference in the shader cores.

    • ronch
    • 6 years ago

    From now on I’m not gonna believe any chip news unless I see die shots. One can’t be too careful especially with all the paper launches these days.

      • Flying Fox
      • 6 years ago

      They can photochop all sorts of “shots”. I will believe it when I see a real product in my hands, and that Intel keep up with the matching BSPs with at least a couple of Android releases. The update aspect is almost as important as the chip itself these days.

    • chuckula
    • 6 years ago

    As a CPU/GPU/SoC: Looks pretty nice in isolation.
    As a successful product that will have large marketshare: Probably not since the silicon performance isn’t enough to get your products running in a huge number of phones.

    That said, if there are halfway decent Linux drivers for the new PowerVR IGP, I’d be interested in trying out non-Android flavors of Linux on a test device to see how it does.

      • Ninjitsu
      • 6 years ago

      Apparently do have design wins…at least so they say on one of the slides:
      [url<]http://www.anandtech.com/show/7789/intel-talks-merrifield-moorefield-and-lte-at-mwc-2014[/url<]

        • chuckula
        • 6 years ago

        I’m not saying that there will be zero marketshare, but Intel still lacks a marquee phone win where the phone is made by a well-known brand and is widely popular.

          • Ninjitsu
          • 6 years ago

          Yup, that’s true. A Nexus win would be very good for them, though I suspect only Moorefield has solid chance of that.

    • trackerben
    • 6 years ago

    Hopefully they come out with a win on a mid-end Lumia i.e. 7xx. A tightly integrated Nokia-Siemens-Microsoft-Intel 4G design may be the last best hope for a quality alternative to the iPhone.

    • Ninjitsu
    • 6 years ago

    I hope they get some good design wins, i want to change my Lumia 620 now, switch to Android on Intel.

    If they don’t, I’ll probably go for the Moto G.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 6 years ago

      Moto G is a pretty killer phone on the cheap. Might as well change now if you’re looking to change.

        • Ninjitsu
        • 6 years ago

        I know…but I’d prefer something with a screen size bellow 4″, and i’m a bit biased towards the Intel stuff because i expect it to be far more efficient and faster than what’s inside my Lumia and the Moto G (both are dual Kraits, i think the Moto G is slightly faster).

        EDIT: Sorry, the Moto G is a quad core. Thanks derFunkenstein.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 6 years ago

          Moto G is a quad Cortex A7 design.

          If you want less than 4″ you might well be entirely out of luck, unfortunately. Even HTC and Samsung’s “mini” phones are at least 4.3″. The only 4″ phone out there with decent specs right now is the Xperia M. Not sure if that’s available in your area of the world, though.

            • Ninjitsu
            • 6 years ago

            Thanks, fixed the original post.

            Yeah i don’t think i have much hope left for a sub 4″ screen. Might cave to the Moto G. Xperia M should be available here, though I’m not a fan of OEM Android builds. Rather stick to Moto/Nexus and get software updates on time.

            But i dunno, 2 Silvermont cores should smoke those A7s.

        • uni-mitation
        • 6 years ago

        Moto G is indeed a killer phone for the value. I can’t believe what 200 dollars get you. I got one for Mom and it has been pretty awesome for media consumption.

        Yet, it doesn’t appeal to me. I mostly use my phone as a communication tool and it excels at that for me so I am one happy camper.

          • Ninjitsu
          • 6 years ago

          Yeah, planning to get one for mom too. I use a phone mainly for communication too, some web browsing but rarely for gaming. I just want everything smooth and snappy and get software updates on time. Also, flexibility.

      • revparadigm
      • 6 years ago

      I have a Moto G on Verizon. Since they released the Kitkat 4.4.2 for it…amazing and damn fast phone for 100.00 prepaid.

    • brucethemoose
    • 6 years ago

    The Web benchmark also shows how good the Apple A7 CPU is as well. Qualcomm needs to step up their game, and put out a real ARMv8 dual core if they want to stay competitive.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 6 years ago

      Qualcomm doesn’t compete with Apple because most people deciding between iOS and Android aren’t looking at benchmarks.

      OTOH look at all the SoCs in flagship and other notable phones the last couple years:

      Galaxy S3 – Qualcomm Snapdragon S4
      Galaxy S4 – Snapdragon 600
      Galaxy Note 2 – Exynos quad 4000 series
      Galaxy Note 3 – Snapdragon 800

      HTC One S – Snapdragon S4, some markets got Snapdragon S3
      HTC One X – Snapdragon S4 in the US thanks to its LTE modem, Tegra 3 RoW
      HTC One X+ – Tegra 3
      HTC One – Snapdragon 600
      HTC One Mini – Snapdragon 400
      HTC One Max – Snapdragon 600

      LG Optimus G – Snapdragon S4 Pro
      LG G2 – Snapdragon 800

      Motorola Droid series (2012) – Snapdragon S4
      Motorola X and 2013 Droid series – Moto’s X8 is based on Snapdragon S4 Pro
      Moto G – Snapdragon 400

      Nexus 5 – Snapdragon 800
      Nexus 4 – Snapdragon S4 Pro

      Other than a Samsung phone and some versions of the One X, everything on that list is Snapdragon-based. Qualcomm’s performance has little to do with it, apparently.

        • Ninjitsu
        • 6 years ago

        I wonder if Intel still has a shot at Apple? I mean, if they wanted to get Apple on board they’d have had to do it when iOS went 64-bit.

        Perhaps the only other chance will arise if Apple decides to merge the iOS and OSX code-bases even further, and has to decide between going all ARM and all x86, or if Intel’s and Qualcomm’s lead over Apple’s in-house stuff is too much. But i guess then they’d still pick an ARM partner…

        Hmmm. Unlikely, then, that iOS is ported to x86.

          • nico1982
          • 6 years ago

          Well, iOS is already ported to x86 and x86_64: the development tools include a simulator (not an emulator) 😀

          • derFunkenstein
          • 6 years ago

          First of all, Microsoft and Windows 8.x is an example of why they won’t do that. Too much revolt on the desktop. Apple doesn’t have the luxury of being the “industry standard” in the corporate world (and has abandoned most of their corporate offerings like the Xserve in favor of consumer devices dressed up as servers like the Mac Mini) but if we go down that road:

          The main reason that Apple could go Intel and not alienate their entire customer base was that PowerPC was pretty slow in low-power settings, and the new Intel Core Duo family was hitting its stride right there. Mac notebooks and the Mac Mini were all running G4s still, relatively power-hungry single-core PowerPC 7447s that had their doors blown off both in a performance-per-thread basis and overall by dual-core Yonahs. That’s why most Macs were transitioned to Intel so quickly, and only the Power Mac G5 waited for Xeons based on Conroe cores. Today, Intel’s 15-45W CPUs can’t be touched in terms of performance, which is why the Mac is staying on x86.

          And since Apple has been happy to have PA Semi design their iOS device SoCs, I think you’ll continue to see ARM there.

            • Ninjitsu
            • 6 years ago

            [quote<]First of all, Microsoft and Windows 8.x is an example of why they won't do that.[/quote<] Apple have been handling the OS merger better, though. They're largely keeping OS X the same, but adding independent elements from iOS, but reworked for the desktop. MS just slapped everything together in panic. The rest of your post was an interesting read, though. Was too young during the PowerPC to Intel transition, so while i had a rough idea of what happened, didn't know the details.

          • Stonebender
          • 6 years ago

          We’ll see what happens when Apple wants to go to new chips on a smaller node and Intel is the only game in town.

      • JdL
      • 6 years ago

      Especially considering the A7 only runs at 1.3 GHz, while the others are at 2.0 GHz+!

    • nico1982
    • 6 years ago

    Since they think that their proprietary GPU is fine in Z3770 & Co, looks like it doesn’t scale good enough below tablet power envelopments or Rogue is too good to be passed upon.

      • Ninjitsu
      • 6 years ago

      True, might be a bit of both really. Maybe only the Airmont based phones will get Intel HD Graphics? Though from what i’m hearing (sources!), is that Intel isn’t too keen on smartphones beyond this year, they didn’t get the response they were looking for since 2012.

      That said, the second slide is slightly odd, as it suggests Merrifield doesn’t support 2D/3D graphics. :/

      EDIT: AnandTech reports that the PowerVR GPU will be fabbed using Intel’s 22nm process.

    • Jigar
    • 6 years ago

    Had a nightmare kind of experience using Lenovo K900 which had Intel Soc in it. Would never ever be an early adopter for Intel ever again.

    EDIT: Spell check.

      • Ninjitsu
      • 6 years ago

      Well, i used a Xolo X900 (Medfield), was pretty good actually. Not for “high end” games but it got the job done. No stuttering, etc.

      Also been using the Dell Venue 8, with a CloverTrail+ SoC, and it provides a superior user experience than the Tegra Note 7, which stutters all over the place.

      CloverTrail+ is a bad idea for games like Asphalt 8, though. Textures wouldn’t load.

      Intel usually uses a decent eMMC and memory controller, probably helps.

        • Jigar
        • 6 years ago

        K900 had serious stuttering problem, it hanged a lot, overheated like a toaster, battery life was hardly 1.5 hours during gaming use – currently i am using Sony Z ultra – its thousand times better than K900.

          • Ninjitsu
          • 6 years ago

          I see…I’ve had pretty much the opposite experience with both the Xolo and the Dell. The X900 did get hot at times though, and my review unit had a battery calibration issue, but from other user reviews online, it seems the latter was isolated.

          The Venue 8 has had exactly zero heating issues during my two weeks with it.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 6 years ago

            Jigar is just giving a peek into the future of Motorola. There’s a reason Lenovo couldn’t crack the US phone market on its own.

            • Ninjitsu
            • 6 years ago

            Yeah, they never really tried for India either. I don’t remember anything except the K900 coming out from them, maybe something lower end.

            Intel saw moderate success but Xolo was the wrong brand to launch with, not the best build quality, but passable.

            • trackerben
            • 6 years ago

            The rule of thumb is not to buy any Android costing more than $100 on plan or $300 unlocked except for Nexus models (and the Moto G). The experience usually lacks compared to Nokia or Apple due to the unstable OS base and integration standards, e.g. caching and tasks, battery, thermals, UI & controls etc. This is mainly Google’s fault and less the brands as the Android team admitted. Although when experience fails are due to poor specs and integration resulting in performance/heat issues it’s partly also a result of the industry’s race-to-the-bottom problem as in the ultramobile PC space.

            This situation isn’t changing much until Intel pushes reference standards up. Qualcomm (let alone Mediatek et al) isn’t there yet in platforms and Samsung and Lenovo don’t cut it, while Sony for some reason is absent (had high hopes for them but nada).

            • Ninjitsu
            • 6 years ago

            Well, we don’t have contracts here (except one for the 5S), but yeah I mostly agree with you.

            In fact, I usually [i<]only[/i<] recommend the Moto G or Nexus 4/5 to people in the Android space (I'm biased towards software updates) unless they have some specific preferences. Below the Moto G you only have Lumias with decent build quality. Apple phones are just too damn expensive. An iPhone 4 sells for over $320, while the 5S is above $700.

            • trackerben
            • 6 years ago

            Yea the Lumia 510/520/525 are solid with good call quality and responsive screens. I’m hoping Microsoft will push for a dual SIM Lumia, hopefully a midrange 7xx with global LTE that would be a good alternative to iPhone 5c. I’m not dismissing Apple, they have the best balanced hardware and the only other stable OS. My old 3GS and my wife’s 4S still run much stabler and slicker than my newer Lenovo P770 which can be unpredictable sometimes like most non-Nexus 4.x droids. But a new 5C or 5S is worth the high price mainly for its data LTE and premium apps. A cheaper but equally good quality Lumia may be a good enough for basic needs.

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