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Intel Quark is just too hot for wearable technology, says ARM

Processors powering the new trend in wearable technology not only need to be small and energy efficient, but also cool enough to wear comfortably. According to ARM, Intel's new tiny Quark processor is just too hot to handle.
February 24, 2014
Intel Quark

Wearable technology just keeps on making the headlines, partly thanks to Samsung’s newly announced Gear 2 and 2 Neo smartwatches. As well as software features and aesthetic designs to get right, we seem to be forgetting that we still need processors to power our wearables. The battle for who will control the potentially huge wearable technology market is well and truly on.

We’ve already hit on the fact that wearable computing requires a new range of power efficient, and above all else, smaller SoCs than you’d find in a smartphone. ARM’s Cortex A and M chips are already well placed to deal with this emerging market segment, and Intel has also started to make a move with its own Quark processor and Edison development board. ARM is already a ways out in front here too, whilst Edison is slowing making its way into the hands of developers. Furthermore, ARM has also spotted another, rather large, flaw with Intel’s technology – it’s too darn hot!

Intel Quark Thermal Hot

According to a test conducted in ARM’s own labs, the company’s Cortex-A9 processor, the same core which has found its way into a number of dual and quad-core smartphone SoCs, can be seen running at a very cool 28.4oC without any cooling solutions applied. That’s pretty much perfect for something you’re likely to wear on your wrist.

The same can’t be said when it comes to Intel’s turn, its Galileo development board, the predecessor to the new Edison development kit which are both powered by an Intel Quark X1000 chip, reaches a blistering 54.9 oC whilst just being used to turn a light on and off. Ouch!

To be fair to Intel, the board would be slimmed down substantially before being used in any product, and some of the heat is probably being generated by additional bits of hardware on the board, including whatever is converting the mains voltage to 5V (ARM’s chip is just running from a battery). Never the less, ARM raises an excellent point regarding the temperature of our wearable technology. Wearable technology not only necessitates smaller and more power efficient chips, but also SoCs which will run cool when left on for long periods of time, whilst still being able to power all the things we want our smartwatches to do. Talk about a tall order.

Check out the video below for a closer look at ARM’s temperature test, as well as some cool thermal imaging clips (badum tish).