Earlier today, Bill Leszinske, the General Manager, Technology Planning of the Atom SoC Development Group at Intel, provided a few UK-based journalists with an update on the company's roadmap for Intel's hottest silicon property at present.
Apart from the fact that Atom is now clearly an SoC product (pitting it directly against the likes of Qualcomm, Nvidia or Samsung), the deck of slides presented to us also hinted at an Atom product that will fit into the newly-formed Ultrabook category.
It is the first time that Intel is suggesting that Ultrabooks will come with anything other than Ivy Bridge-based Core 22nm processors. Leszinske also confirmed that by 2014, Intel will align all its products, including Atom, on the same manufacturing process, which by have reached 14nm.
(ed : Following the publication of this article, an Intel spokesperson has confirmed to us that Ultrabooks will feature Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge and Haswell processors but no Atom CPUs.)
The 14nm Atom, known as Airmont, will succeed to the 22nm Silvermont, which is set to be launched in 2013; with Intel shrinking the TTM (time to market) by half. The first 32nm Atom processors, codenamed Saltwell, are expected to come to market in September, replacing 45nm models.
With that in mind, there's one slide (see below) which titillated our curiosity, one which Leszinske clearly indicated, is based on real (but confidential) data.
On it, Intel presents tablet graphics performance which is expected to grow by more than 10 times between now and 2015 (in terms of frames per second) and tablet CPU performance (in SPEC2000int_rate) which should rise by more than 10 times over the next four to five years.
Intel told us the reason why they (still) use the SPECint2000 (which was retired back in 2007) is that it allows Intel to compare its many architectures. The baseline used happens to be the processor used in 2nd generation tablets which we suspect means the 1.66GHz Intel Atom N570 which is found in the Lenovo LePad or the Dell Inspiron Duo.
That chip uses the GMA3150 graphics module, which is a reworked version of the GMA3000 and is still a DX9.0c part. Notebookcheck says that one of the newest games that actually runs on that GPU is Starcraft 2010 which reaches 3fps on low settings; in comparison Nvidia's integrated ION2 GPU - which is two years old already - reaches 25.3 frames per second on that same game.
When it comes to raw compute power, the N570 is roughly twice as fast as the first generation Atom N270 CPU, which is understandable given that (a) the N570 has twice the amount of cores as the N570 (b) their clock speeds are comparable (c) architectural improvements on the N570 have been counterbalanced by inherent disadvantages linked to adding a GPU.
From that slide therefore, one can assume that Intel's tablet CPU in 2015 will be at least 20 times faster than the N270, with a steep rise in performance between 2012 and 2013 (when the transition between Saltwell and Trigate powered Silvermont takes place) and a relatively minor performance jump from Silvermont to Airmont. The N270 - which was launched in 2008 - reaches 3.846 MIPS at 1.6GHz.
Assuming that the SPECint2000 benchmark scales linearly; then the mainstream Atom CPU as used in a tablet in 2015 will reach around 79,000 MIPS which would make slightly more powerful than a six-core AMD Phenom X6 1100T processor.