It was quite a long time coming, but today Intel finally took the wraps off its radical new Silvermont microarchitecture, signifying a revamp of pretty much the entire Atom mobile processor platform. It is based on a new 22nm process and should offer not only an increase in raw processing performance but also a reduction in overall power consumption. It will be present in a number of products including tablets and smartphones as well as microservers and even in-vehicle infotainment systems. Could this finally lead to Intel’s success in its quest for world mobile market domination?
Silvermont is meant to be the first in a family of yearly refreshes so you can expect to see an even better version of it not too far into the future. But for now, it’s going to be the champion of Intel’s mobile offerings and it is quite a fitting one, at that. When it arrives for smartphones later this year, it will be in the guise of Merrifield, while tablets will be getting it through Intel’s upcoming Baytrail SoC.
Silvermont is designed to offer three times the performance of its predecessor (Saltwell) while consuming five times less power. And it supports not just Android but Linux and Windows as well. This shows that Intel is much better prepared to battle with the likes of NVIDIA and Qualcomm this time around. And it won’t hold anything back.
How many cores does it take?
According to Dadi Perlmutter, Chief Product Officer at Intel and Executive VP of the Intel Architecture Group, Silvermont is all about making sure that all of the cores are optimized, to the point that it’s able to outperform even competitor solutions that rely on higher core counts. The value of a microarchitecture, he said, is “not measured by how many cores you have.” Instead, you have to take many other factors into account, such as how all the different cores work together and how good any particular core is at what it’s supposed to be doing.
As Intel would have it, not all cores are created equal. And it has created this handy chart to illustrate.
Intel’s own test results — which should be taken with a grain of salt — show that the dual-core Silvermont can easily outperform a quad-core solution from an unnamed competitor. It offers 1.6x the performance while consuming 2.4x less power. And this was at the 1W core power level, a.k.a. at the level of smartphones.
And here’s a chart that shows just how much better Silvermont is when compared with Saltwell, the microarchitecture that came before it. It wins in both single-threaded and multi-threaded use, both in terms of power consumption and processor performance. Needless to say, this makes the future of Intel in mobile look brighter than ever, and it actually makes it a bit exciting to think about the kind of Silvermont-based products that will be released later this year.
Intel decided not to reveal any SoC-specific information — such as the maximum clock speed, for instance — for both Merrifield and Baytrail for now. But it promised to give an update very soon, so expect to see the new information here from us as soon as it becomes officially available.