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Friday, June 07, 2013
Intel And ARM Fight Over Mobile Processor Superiority

ARM and Intel claim superiority over each other's mobile processors - ARM Cortex A15 Vs. Silvermont-based Intel chips.

ARM hit at Intel this week at Computex, asserting that its latest Cortex CPU cores both outperform and run at lower power than Intel?s future next-gen mobile processor, Silvermont.

ARM made comments about processor superiority when it introduced the new Cortex-A12 processors targeted at smartphones and tablets from US$200 to $350.

Intel has been claiming that chips based on the Silvermont architecture are 1.6 times faster and 2.4 times more power efficient than Cortex.

ARM dismissed those charges, showing at Computex data with the accompanying chart that compares Cortex against Intel?s Silvermont claims.

ARM says that based on actual measurements of Intel Atom chips shipping today and Intel's own claims of future performance, today's current performance of Cortex-A15 processors are 30% more efficient than Intel's future Silvermont chip.

ARM also noted that Intel's x86 processors create compatibility issues on Android systems, which require them to "emulate" an ARM processor for apps to run properly, consuming more power.

"Cortex-A15 is not even close to Silvermont. They are higher power and much behind us on performance which means they are on the wrong scale," Dadi Perlmutter, executive vice president and general manager of the Intel Architecture Group, said at Computex.

Intel is trying to enter the smartphone and tablet chip market, which is currently dominated by ARM processors.

At Computex, Intel also presented the upcoming Bay Trail chip, which will go in tablets starting under US$199, and also showed a prototype smartphone based on its Merrifield chip, which will ship to device makers next year.

With the new architecture, the two companies go the oposite way: Intel is trying to reduce power leakage, while ARM is now scaling up processor performance.

At this year's Computex, ARM processors were found in many new tablets, although Intel also notched up some tablet wins with its current Atom processors.

Silvermont chips will be made using a 22-nanometer process that introduces a more efficient 3D transistor structure to pack in more circuitry while reducing the size of a chip. Intel also bets its chip making advantage compared to other foundries, adding that its performance per watt will get even better with the company's mobile chips code-named Airmont next year.

ARM has been working with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) and GlobalFoundries to get 3D transistors on chips over the next two years.

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