“The Atom x3 line of processors aim at bringing down the cost of devices, while offering better performance and battery life”
With its new Atom lineup of processors unveiled at MWC, chipmaker Intel is upping its game in the mobility segment to take on the likes of Qualcomm and MediaTek. The new range also boasts a new naming convention, shifting from the previous combination of letters and numbers to a much simpler, and easier-to-understand branding. The new lineup we’re referring to is labelled simply as the Atom x range and includes the x3, x7 and x7 chipsets. This convention now also matches Intel’s offerings on the desktop / laptop side, and can be correlated to the Core i3, i5 and i7 line of processors… moving upwards in terms of capabilities and cost.
While the Atom x3 forms the core offering for the mushrooming value segment spanning different mobile device categories, the higher-end x5 and the x7 are mainly intended for more premium tablets and hybrid computing solutions. The Atom x3 processor series marks the first time Intel has integrated a modem on a system-on-chip, and is aimed at entry and value tablets, phablets and smartphones, available in a choice of 4G LTE and 3G versions. The Atom x3 portfolio includes three different variants to address different device segments, and as its core highlight, promises better value for money with enhanced performance and connectivity. Battery life, one of the most important criteria for portable gadgets, has been addressed as well with the promise of better energy efficiency across the range. 64-bit support is included across the lineup, while computing speeds and connectivity features vary as you move up the chain. Full Windows support also makes these chips quite noteworthy.
At this point, it’d be worthwhile to note that especially from the India perspective, the budget and mid-range smartphone segment has witnessed massive growth. Our annual report on the state of the Indian mobile industry for the year 2014 notes that the Rs 5,000 to Rs 15,000 smartphone segment saw huge growth last year, and the trend will continue this year as well. This is important, since this is exactly where Intel Atom x3 offerings will play.
Getting into the details, the entry-level Atom x3 offering (dubbed the x3-C3130) is a dual-core processor with clock speeds up to 1GHz. This is intended for budget devices, but supports 64-bit as well as 3G, enabling smartphones that will be light on the pocket, yet offer smooth performance and excellent battery life.
Then there’s a quad-core chip with clock speeds up to 1.2GHz (x3-C3230RK), again a 3G-enabled solution, and more balanced in terms of capabilities. Finally, there’s the high-performance x3-C3440, which is a 4G-enabled quad-core processor that can go up to 1.4GHz. While this is the most loaded offering in the Atom x3 range, the focus is again on value for money – and devices powered by it won’t break the bank despite all the performance advantages.
So what does all this mean for you? In simple terms, Intel’s Atom x3 range of processors will enable manufacturers to come up with mobile devices that will redefine the term ‘maximum bang for the buck’. On a device powered by one of these chipsets, you can expect smooth interface and menu navigation, faster app load times, breezy multitasking, immersive gaming and multimedia, all without the need to hunt for a power socket frequently. What’s more, the starting prices for these devices is pegged at $75 (roughly Rs 5,000)… so you can expect many more capable options in the affordable segment. There’ll also be much more choice when it comes to reasonably-priced 4G-capable devices.
Hardware partners such as ASUS and Foxconn have signed up to manufacture devices based on the Atom x3, and the former already has capable Intel-powered smartphone offerings in its ZenFone range. With the new Atom range, you can expect ASUS to come up with even more compelling options as far as smartphones, tablets and hybrids are concerned – running either Android or Windows.
With the new Atom x3 lineup, Intel has a dual-edged sword in the offing. On one side is the promise of enhanced performance and better connectivity, while on the other, the affordability and value for money. And ultimately, the end users, i.e. you, stand to benefit. Welcome to the latest revolution in the budget performance arena.