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Meet 'Merrifield': Intel's new 22nm Atom chip for smartphones

Intel's main show this week at Computex was the launch of its fourth-generation Core processors, formerly code named Haswell, but the chip giant also took the time to offer a sneak peek at upcoming 22-nanometer, ultra-low power Atom chipsets for tablets and smartphones based on its "Silvermont" microarchitecture.

Intel said that later this year it will be rolling out a new 22nm Atom product line aimed at smartphones, code named Merrifield. The chip giant also used the Computex show in Taiwan to further showcase its quad-core "Bay Trail-T" System-on-a-Chip (SoC) featuring Intel's own XMM 7160 4G LTE multimode-multiband solution.

While Bay Trail-T products are aimed at tablets, where Intel has had reasonable success in taking on rival ARM, Merrifield SoCs will specifically target the smartphone market. So far, Intel has had minimal success in challenging ARM's dominance on that side of the mobile device market and is banking heavily on its next-gen smartphone SoCs to change that.

The Merrifield platform will "deliver increased performance and battery life" and incorporate an integrated sensor hub, which Intel said will enable the delivery of personalised services and better security protections on handsets.

Meanwhile, rumours that Samsung was planning to put Intel inside its next 10-inch tablet proved accurate as the South Korean tech giant officially announced that the Galaxy Tab 3 will be powered by Intel's Atom Z2560 processor, formerly known as "Bay Trail+." Purchasers of the Galaxy Tab 3 will have an option for either Intel's 6262 3G modem or the XMM 7160 4G LTE solution.

On the PC front, Intel executive vice president Tom Kilroy said that Intel is now delivering "on the vision set forth two years ago to reinvent the laptop with the introduction of our fourth-generation Intel Core processors that were designed from the ground up for the ultrabook and serve as the foundation for a new era of 2-in-1 computing."

"We made one of the most seismic changes to our roadmap ever to build these new Core processors that deliver the stunning performance of the PC and the mobility of a tablet in one device. The new processors power the most exciting 2-in-1 designs to-date," he added.

Kilroy said Intel's OEM partners had "more than 50 different 2-in-1 designs" using Haswell and Silvermont chips "across a range of price points."

Among the big names introducing new products with fourth-generation Core chips was Dell, which yesterday refreshed its flagship XPS lineup with the XPS 12, a 2-in-1 hybrid laptop delivering up to 8 hours and 43 minutes of battery life and a 63 per cent performance boost over its predecessor in the XPS stable.

Intel said its 22nm Haswell processors for laptops and 2-in-1 hybrids delivered a 50 per cent increase in battery life over the previous generation, "the largest generation-over-generation gain in the company's history." The chip giant promised that some ultrabooks using the new chips would deliver more than 9 hours of battery life while performing active workloads.

Some of products in Intel's fourth-generation Core lineup feature the new "Iris" integrated graphics, which the company last month touted as providing"up to a 2X 3D performance improvement over today's fastest mobile Intel HD Graphics solutions."

"The performance improvements will amaze even the hardcore computer geek," Intel said in May.

The chip giant also designed its Haswell processors with touch and other input technologies in mind, continuing its strategy of nudging the PC experience beyond the keyboard and mouse and incorporating other interfaces consumers have grown accustomed to with their mobile devices.

At Computex, Kilroy demonstrated "perceptual computing" on Haswell-based ultrabooks and 2-in-1 hybrids equipped with a Creative Senz3D peripheral camera, showcasing not just touch but also interfaces using voice, facial recognition, and gestures to operate.

Intel said it is "working on an integrated solution to build 3D depth camera technology directly into future Intel-based devices targeted for the second half of 2014."