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Digitimes Research: Intel simplifies Atom product lines for mobile devices
Eric Lin, DIGITIMES Research, Taipei

Intel has announced its latest lineup for its Atom series products at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2015 and in addition to simplifying the naming system for the processors to avoid confusion, the CPU giant also designed and optimized them specifically for different segments of the market.

Intel has separated its Atom lineup into three major families: the Atom x3, x5 and x7, capable of being used in mobile devices priced from US$75 to above US$350.

With the Intel-Microsoft cooperation gradually heating up, Digitimes Research expects the new Atom x series processors to have strong potential under Microsoft's ecosystem.

The Atom x3 is the lowest-level product line of the three and was previously known as SoFIA. Intel has worked closely with China's Rockchip developing the processors.

To effectively reduce costs, the Atom x3's GPU uses the Mali architecture licensed from ARM, and Rockchip is believed to be the one making the design suggestion. Intel will offer three different versions of Atom x3, the 3G, 3G-R and 4G supporting different communication standards with all of them entering mass production in the first half of 2015, using a 28nm process from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC).

With China aggressively pushing 4G communication, Digitimes Research expects the 4G model to be the most competitive solution among the three.

The Atom x5 and x7 both adopted an application processor (AP) + baseband design targeting mid-range and high-end mobile devices.

The Atom x5 and x7 are both manufactured via Intel's 14nm process, allowing their performance and power consumption to be superior to those of the Atom x3. Meanwhile, the two product lines have adopted Intel's eighth-generation graphics core to bring their graphics output to a mainstream high-end level.

However, with mobile devices' pricing declining and processors no long the main factor influencing the end-product pricing, Intel's suggested prices for devices using the Atom x5 and x7 are rather friendly and start at about US$120.

For the new Atom products, Intel has optimized them for both Android and Windows platforms. Since demand for the Windows platform from the mobile communication device market has been rising, Microsoft and Intel's partnership is expected to tighten up.

With Microsoft becoming more flexible over its licensing terms, development for Wintel applications will receive a boost.

Although Microsoft still has a close partnership with Qualcomm in the smartphone industry, Digitimes Research believes it may be undermined by Intel's new Atom solutions, which are expected to gain business momentum in the market.

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