Atom x3 chips target cheap phones and tablets, feature ARM graphics

At the Mobile World Congress today, Intel unwrapped a new line of Atom processors for entry-level phones and tablets. Known as the Atom x3 series, this lineup comprises chips formerly known under the SoFIA code name. These chips combine x86 Intel cores with integrated baseband modems and, oddly enough, graphics based on ARM's Mali IP.

Source: Intel.

Three Atom x3 processor are launching today. Each one features a built-in cellular baseband modem and comes with companion silicon that adds extra connectivity. The table below offers a more complete overview of each model's specs. Use the buttons above the table to switch between the three chips:

Specifications Intel Atom x3-C3130 (3G)
CPU Dual core 64-bit Atom x3

Up to 1.0 GHz

Process 28 nm
Graphics Mali 400 MP2

OpenGL ES 2.0

Media (encode/decode) Encode: H.264 @ 720p30

Decode: H.264, VP8 @ 1080p30

Memory 1×32 LPDDR2 800
Display resolution 1280×800 @ 60fps
Modem (integrated) GSM/GPRS/EDGE,

HSPA+ 21/5.8, DSDS, eDvP

Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11bgn, BT 4.0 LE,

GPS & GLONASS, FM Radio

Input Output UART/SPI, I2C, I2S, SDIO
USB USB 2.0 HS
Storage eMMC 4.41
ISP/camera

(rear/front)

Up to 13MP/5MP

According to Aicha Evans, Corporate VP and General Manager of Intel's Communications and Devices Group, the quad-core Atom x3 variants were developed in collaboration with Rockchip, a fabless SoC vendor headquartered in China. Intel first announced the collaboration last May.

All three Atom x3 products are fabbed on a 28-nm process, and Evans suggested pretty strongly that Intel is contracting out manufacturing to third-party foundries. When pressed for specifics, she said, "I'm not going to comment on exactly which TSMC process—or UMC, or whoever it is, right, because that's not appropriate. I don't usually comment on partners and other companies." All Evans would confirm unequivocally was that Intel prioritized "low power, ease of integration, [time to market], and pragmatism."

Some of those same priorities pushed Intel to use ARM Mali graphics instead of a home-brewed IGP. Evans said the Atom x3 line was born out of the SoC portfolio of Infineon's Wireless Solutions business, which Intel acquired four years ago. "In that device, there's already . . . ARM Mali graphics," she explained. "And we decided that, instead of ripping that apart, we were going to focus on fast time to market [and] be practical."

For reference, the fastest Atom x3 of the brood features Mali-T720 graphics, which ARM launched last year and described as a "cost-optimized solution . . . derived from the market-leading Mali GPU found in the Samsung Galaxy Note 3." The dual-core Atom x3's Mali-400 graphics, meanwhile, were previously featured in the Galaxy S2.

Intel didn't share any graphics performance benchmark numbers, but its presentation included some CPU performance estimates. Those estimates suggest the Atom x3 family could be quite competitive with ARM-based SoCs from Qualcomm and MediaTek:

Intel says the dual-core Atom x3-C3130 is shipping now, while the quad-core Atom x3-C3230RK is coming later in the first half of the year. The LTE-infused Atom x3-C3440 will follow in the second half. In all, the chipmaker names 19 partners on board with the Atom x3 rollout, including Asus, Compal, Foxconn, Pegatron, Weibu, and Wistron.

The Atom x3 family will complement the Atom x5 and x7 series, which feature Intel Gen8 graphics and are manufactured using the company's 14-nm fab process. Check out our coverage of the Atom x5 and x7 processors here.

Comments closed
    • dpaus
    • 4 years ago

    $7.3 billion would buy a LOT of beer-n-wings….

    [url<]http://in.reuters.com/article/2015/03/02/intel-mobilephone-idINL1N0W11HT20150302[/url<]

      • anotherengineer
      • 4 years ago

      He is back from the DEAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      So Neely ever get you your beer n wings? 😉

      edit – from link

      “Intel has declined to say how much it paid tablet makers to use its Bay Trail chips, but it’s mobile unit had a loss of $4.2 billion last year, worse than its $3.1 billion loss in 2013.”

      lol

      And they still made massive profits!

      • chuckula
      • 4 years ago

      I found you a tablet with 16 GB of RAM!

      • NeelyCam
      • 4 years ago

      Welcome back!!

      I owe you some wings… :/

    • ronch
    • 4 years ago

    1. Using Mali instead of Intel’s own graphics IP sure is interesting. So they need to pay royalties to ARM or is it part of the deal with the Infineon acquisition, with no further royalties due to ARM?

    2. What is inappropriate about disclosing your fab partner?

    3. Fast time to market. AMD beat that drum not long ago by saying they’re taking a ‘building blocks’ approach that would let them quickly mix and match IP blocks together to enable faster time to market and greater flexibility. Guess pretty much everyone’s doing that now. It’s kinda like building a circuit board with lots of different chips on it, except now you do it at the chip level, putting the individual dies together into one piece of silicon glued together by some sort of interconnect.

    4. Not sure what’s wrong with the site, but when I press one of the buttons on the benchmarks, the TR logo just comes up.

    5. Partners: Asus makes phones under their own brand, but what about Compal, Wistron, Foxconn, etc.? AFAIK they don’t sell phones or tabs under their own names but instead make stuff for other companies. Who are those?

    6. All in all, interesting news. I’d like ARM to pose a challenge to Intel but Intel’s effort ought to keep them on their toes and competition raging on.

    • the
    • 4 years ago

    It has been widely speculated that Intel was wanting to ditch PowerVR graphics but the consensus was that they’d use Intel HD graphics from bottom to the top. The usage of ARM’s Mali is very, very telling here. Intel’s HD graphics certainly can compete here but it doesn’t seem to scale down in power as much as they’d had hoped.

    At the very least this is a PR coup for ARM.

    • NeelyCam
    • 4 years ago

    [quote<]Those estimates suggest the Atom x3 family could be quite competitive with ARM-based SoCs from Qualcomm and MediaTek:[/quote<] Yeah, but they probably should be compared to A53s that are coming out now instead of last year's A7 chips...

      • willmore
      • 4 years ago

      If you could click on that C3440 link you would see an A53 in there.

      Edited to add this link to the graph on PC Per:
      [url<]http://www.pcper.com/reviews/Processors/Intel-Launches-Atom-x3-x5-and-x7-Processors-Phones-Tablets-and-2-1s[/url<]

      • mczak
      • 4 years ago

      Frankly no matter what ARM is telling, there isn’t much if any performance difference between a Cortex-A7 and a Cortex-A53. Maybe this would change a bit when running in armv8-64bit mode.
      That said the performance of the atom cpu itself better be much better at the same clock. The Cortex-A7 should be a much simpler design whose single thread performance should be more inline with that of the old saltwell atom. I bet though a dual-core atom x3 needs a larger area (and has more transistors) than a quad-core Cortex A53 (intel’s chosen benchmark doesn’t really seem to benefit much from multiple cores in any case).
      I agree though that even with low cpu clocks the results look good, however clearly intel cut _heavy_ corners with the gpu, it’s not surprising no graphic results were published. The slowest of the bunch uses a Mali 400mp2, I don’t think anyone else announced a new (lowend, intended for phones) SoC with such a crappy gpu in the last year or so…

    • Misel
    • 4 years ago

    Intel WTF?

    We were happy when you finally ditched the linux driver desaster that was PowerVR and now this?

      • DrDominodog51
      • 4 years ago

      If anything these gpus will have better linux support because the (non-rPi) embedded community primarily uses linux and Mali 400 gpus.

    • Hattig
    • 4 years ago

    Very low-end SoCs … but hopefully cheap. Not very compelling however all told, and it’s going up against $5 SoCs, so cost is a key aspects here (contra-revenue time?).

    • willmore
    • 4 years ago

    Buttons for Mobile XPRT benchmarks are broken.

      • willmore
      • 4 years ago

      A day later and they’re still broken.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 4 years ago

        A month on…

    • NTMBK
    • 4 years ago

    [quote<]In all, the chipmaker names 19 partners on board with the Atom x3 rollout, including Asus, Compal, Foxconn, Pegatron, Weibu, and Wistron.[/quote<] So they have one (1) OEM partner, looking good Intel.

      • chuckula
      • 4 years ago

      Yeah, only an idiot would think that a 2-bit operation like Foxconn could ever produce a working telephone!

        • NTMBK
        • 4 years ago

        Foxconn is great at manufacturing. They don’t sell devices to consumers.

        You only see a chipmaker wheel out their reference designs as “design wins” when they don’t have any actual design wins. You saw it with Tegra 4, you saw it with Tegra 4i, and you saw it with Temash. Intel has a single partner who actually wants to sell phones based on these parts, and it’s ASUS.

    • anotherengineer
    • 4 years ago

    In before……

    Neely calls sacrilege for Intel using ARM graphics!!

    😉

      • chuckula
      • 4 years ago

      Obviously this is ARM giving up and admitting that x86 is superior.

        • Deanjo
        • 4 years ago

        Isn’t it the other way around? Obviously intel is slowly migrating to the superior ARM architecture.

          • chuckula
          • 4 years ago

          No, because it’s an ARM GPU, not CPU.

          ARM has been all-about its CPU architecture for decades and the graphics are just a side-show. Same for Intel with the Intel IGPs being a very recent development that doesn’t get the attention of the CPU side.

          Therefore, when it comes down to it, the winner is the one with the CPU cores, not the GPU.

            • Deanjo
            • 4 years ago

            It’s intel adopting traditional ARM technology, not the other way around.

            • chuckula
            • 4 years ago

            No… those are 64-bit x86 CPU cores in there. The only thing from ARM is the “mali” GPU part that is far from anything even close to “traditional”. Intel probably licensed those GPU cores because they were cheaper & easier to deal with than PowerVR.

            • Deanjo
            • 4 years ago

            Lol, considering that Mali cores have only been on ARM and MIPS devices I would say it is traditionally an ARM tech.

            Feel free to post other x86 CPU’s that have used Mali graphics to prove your point though.

            • chuckula
            • 4 years ago

            Obviously the cold Canadian weather has gotten Deanjo into not-so-clever troll mode.

            “Mali graphics have only been used with ARM and MIPs parts”

            Therefore…. ARM has already admitted that Mali graphics aren’t really all that tied into the “ARM” architecture since they already worked with MIPs in the past and now they work with x86 cores where Intel didn’t really have to do that much work either.

            • Deanjo
            • 4 years ago

            [quote<]Obviously the cold Canadian weather has gotten Deanjo into not-so-clever troll mode.[/quote<] Think your the one with a brain freeze. [url<]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mali_%28GPU%29[/url<] [quote<][b<]The Mali series of graphics processing units (GPUs) are semiconductor intellectual property cores produced by ARM Holdings[/b<][/quote<]

            • chuckula
            • 4 years ago

            Wow!
            Guess what: Transistors use silicon.

            Just as true and just as non-sequitur as your wikipedia trolling, especially when MY VERY FIRST POST says the same thing.

            • Deanjo
            • 4 years ago

            Your very first post says that ARM is giving up. Not so, the exact opposite, intel is giving up on providing their own solution and ARM will happily take intels money. ARM doesn’t need anything from intel, intel needs ARM’s graphics.

            • chuckula
            • 4 years ago

            Fascinating lack of logic there about Intel “needing” ARM’s graphics when Intel has produced a huge range of products with both their own GPUs and GPUs from other third parties and this was clearly just a matter of expediency from existing designs that Intel got from buying out Infineon.

            Interesting point for the Apple fans: Imagination technologies… Intel until recently was part owner and has been invested for a LONG time (long long before Apple came on the scene).

            Guess who Apple relies on exclusively for built-in GPUs?
            That’s right: PowerVR parts from Imagination.
            Does that mean Apple *needs* PowerVR and therefore its owner Intel to do graphics?
            Sure sounds like it to me from your warped logic! Especially since Apple has literally never produced its own GPU or even gotten a different type of GPU licensed for its mobile parts!

            • MadManOriginal
            • 4 years ago

            My faith in the literacy of the TR readership has plummeted thanks to this thread.

    • chuckula
    • 4 years ago

    Keyword for this whole platform: CHEAP.
    These chips aren’t intended to take on an A8 in an $800 iPhone, but they are more targeted at where Mediatek and lower-end Qualcomm parts live.

      • rodalpho
      • 4 years ago

      Exactly– bay trail atoms currently available already compete extremely well with Qualcomm’s SoCs in both performance and power consumption. But Intel is subsidizing costs on those. These new atoms will be sold at a profit.

        • NTMBK
        • 4 years ago

        Qualcomm still blows them away on modem tech and image processors, and don’t need a performance sucking binary translation layer to run native apps.

      • ronch
      • 4 years ago

      Kinda ironic how Intel is nipping at ARM’s toes here. For too long it’s Intel’s toes that has had many companies nipping on them.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 4 years ago

        When’s the last time a company nipped at Intel’s (circle one: heels/toes)

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