Intel Unveils A Trio Of New Mobile Chips: Atom x3, x5, and x7 - Coming To Phones, Tablets, And Other Stuff
Wi-Fi only versions of x5 and x7 will be in commercially available devices in the first half of the year (Intel didn't say when x3 would launch), which is likely to only increase Intel's sphere of influence in the tablet world. How fast are x5 and x7? If your guess was "Intel isn't saying," you win! Intel hasn't actually announced any specific x5 and x7 models, so specifications are pretty scarce. Intel's basic outline of the x5/x7 platform seems to suggest all the chipsets will get quad-core Airmont 14nm processors, though I wouldn't be surprised if we saw a dual-core setup at the cheap end of the parts bin. 8th-gen integrated Intel GPUs will push the pixels on x5 and x7 hardware with, as you may have guessed, precious few details as to what exactly that means for performance. Intel boasts benchmark gains in Open GL of up to 100% over older Atoms, and 50% in applications like 3DMark. How the old chip performed is, of course, not elaborated on.
Intel envisions x5 and x7 parts will find their ways into devices retailing anywhere from $200 to $400+, which will put those Airmont cores among slightly more rarified air than their x3 cousins, which Intel relegates to the sub-$200 market.
Intel's process size advantage over Qualcomm basically ensures its continued rise in the tablet space through 2015. Qualcomm 14nm parts aren't expected in quantity until next year, though there is some speculation that limited 14nm runs of the San Diego firm's next-gen core may make it into production by year's end. For Qualcomm, though, the tablet space already seems lost - Intel is competing in large part with MediaTek and other budget processor companies at the low end, where an integrated cellular radio isn't a dealbreaker. At the high end, Samsung is pushing Exynos, and Amazon remains Qualcomm's last truly major tablet partner. Intel has competed aggressively on price and sell-through assistance with its partners to basically wrap up the Android tablet market - Intel is currently the largest independent vendor of chipsets in tablets, though Apple still manages to ship more iPads with its own chips overall than Intel does with all of its partners around the world.
x5 and x7, though, show that we're basically dealing with the same problems Intel has for years: the lack of a solid integrated cellular solution and mediocre graphics performance (though that is changing). Power consumption aside (which Intel says will be "competitive" on these new chips), it's clear Intel still has a winding road ahead of it before it can take on Qualcomm in its home space - the smartphone. As the tablet market shows signs of contraction, it also seems unlikely that 2015 will be especially lucrative for Intel's mobile business, which has lost money every year it has operated. Intel will likely keep losing money here as it hones and streamlines its mobile portfolio, though x5 and x7's Airmont underpinnings are finally seeing Intel's architectural roadmap align a bit more. Regardless, it's clear the desktop CPU market's sleeping giant is awake, and Intel doesn't plan on going back to bed any time soon.