A little over two years ago, Intel formally unveiled the low-power Atom processor and its related chipset and platform technologies. At the time, Intel's vision for Atom had the diminutive CPU powering a diverse line-up of mobile internet devices, or MIDs, web-connected tablets, portable media players, and handheld gaming devices. Suffice it to say, Intel's original vision for Atom didn't quite go according to plan. Yes, the chip found its way into an array of devices from video phones to set-top boxes, but by and large Atom has dominated the netbook market, a segment Intel didn't pay much attention to when it first unveiled Atom.
Regardless of whether or not Atom found its way into all of the devices Intel had hoped, the original Atom platform--codenamed Menlow--was an undeniable success for the company. Intel's design goals for Atom were to produce an ultra-low power IA compatible platform, for use in new, small form factor computing devices, and in that regard the company has succeeded. As a result, Intel has sold Atom processor by millions.
Intel, however, had other plans for Atom, right from the start. In our initial look at Atom in April 2008, we featured some roadmap information from Intel regarding the Moorestown platform, which at the was slated for release in the late 2009 / early 2010 timeframe. Back then, Intel revealed that Moorestown was to be their first Atom-based System On A Chip design, or SoC, for MIDs and smartphones. With that in mind, what we're going to detail for you here today shouldn't be a complete surprise. Today, Intel is officially unveiling the Moorestown platform, which consists of the new Intel Atom Processor Z6xx Series (previously codenamed Lincroft), the Intel Platform Controller Hub MP20 (previously codenamed Langwell) and a Mixed Signal IC (MSIC), codenamed Briertown.
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First and foremost, Intel's plans for the Moorestown platform were to significantly reduce power consumption and shrink die and total package sizes down, to the point where the platform would be a viable option for smartphones and other pocket-sized devices. Concurrently, Intel wanted Moorestown to be the highest performing platform in the market segment, with a wide variety of workloads, i.e. web browsing, media playback, video conferencing, etc.
Although the company is not quite ready to announce any specific design wins, it seems Intel is certainly on to something. Intel has revealed that, in comparison to the original Menlow platform, the new Moorestown platform achieves a >50% platform idle power reduction, a >30% die size reduction, a >40% package size reduction, and about 50% board size reduction, while at the same time approximately doubling performance for graphics, web, and video workloads. According to Intel, this was all made possible by a series of silicon and platform level enhancements at the design, architectural, and manufacturing process levels.
Up to this point, Atom has worked its way into a number of different types of devices and a myriad of product families have emerged as a result. Just to clarify, here is a breakdown of all current Atom platform-based products and their intended markets...
Atom N-Series (Netbooks)
Atom CE-Series (Set-Top boxes, TV)
Atom D-Series (Entry Level Desktops)
Atom Embedded Series (Embedded Devices)
Atom Z-Series (smartphones & tablets)
It's the new Z-Series that is the foundation of the Moorestown platform, and its intended for smartphones. Unlike previous Atom iterations, however, which were designed to scale down into different market segment, Intel designed the Z-Series with smartphones in mind specifically, but obviously the platform can be scaled up into different market segments. Intel is simply taking a different tact with Moorestown; optimizing for the high-end smartphone and handheld space, but because of the power efficiency and performance Moorestown is an interesting prospect for future tablets and similar devices.
Intel Platform Controller Hub MP20, Intel Atom Processor Z6xx Series - Side-by-Side