ARM still dominates mobile devices more than two years after Intel started making chips suitable for Android phones and tablets. The company is taking another swing at it in 2014 with the newly announced Merrifield and Moorefield chips. These processors pack updated GPUs, new 64-bit architecture, and an efficient 22nm manufacturing process.

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The Merrifield chips are now officially known as the Z34xx family. According to benchmarks produced by Intel, the dual-core Z3480 processor is capable of besting the Snapdragon 800 and Apple A7. Although, those SoCs are well into their life cycle while the Z3480 isn't due out for a few months. Merrifield processors will include a PowerVR G6400 GPU and Intel's IMM 7160 LTE platform. It can run as fast as 2.13GHz and supports 4GB of RAM.

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Later in 2014, the Moorefield Atom chips are expected to be released – these will have Z35xx model numbers when the time comes. They ought to be very similar to the Merrifield platform as far as the architecture goes, but will be quad-core with a faster PowerVR 6430 GPU and IMM 7260 LTE. Intel has worked out a deal with companies like Lenovo, Dell, and Asus to get its Atom chips out there.


Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • DJ Focus

    The CPUs on these seem pretty great but I'm worried about the GPU side of things. I'm gussing this runs one of Intel's own GPUs so if these become popular does that mean open gl es 2.0 games have yto be optimized to run on these aswell as mali, powervr, adreno and tegra?

    • Cheeseball

      Actually, according to the article above, the new Merrifield SoCs run the PowerVR G6400 GPU, which is nearly identical to the one found in the Apple A7. This is good because this is probably the fastest GPU on the mobile side of things, particularly due to the 64 SIMDs.

      I'm glad we're able to get a better PowerVR GPU on the Android side of things.

      • h4rr4r

        PowerVR is not better, what use is a GPU without drivers?
        This means being stuck on old kernels and ROMs being held up.

        Intel GPU would mean the drivers could be and would be in mainline.

        • Cheeseball

          Does Imagination Technologies not provide binary blobs for any of their GPUs on the Android side? I'm pretty sure Intel allows manufacturers to release kernel source code for their SoCs, but not sure about the binaries themselves.

          The only experiences I had with PowerVR GPUs are the older PCI video cards, the SGX540 in the OMAP4460, the SGX544 in a MediaTek SoC and the various iOS devices. I only know the OMAP4460 was open due to being in the Galaxy Nexus.

          • h4rr4r

            They only provide them to the OEMs. They do not tend to update them either.
            I thought they only provided binaries for that chipset. I just downloaded it for toro and it does not appear to be open.

          • Cheeseball

            Ah, by open, I meant they provide the binaries for GPU for developers to use. Just like how Qualcomm does for the Adreno series on their developer site.

          • h4rr4r

            That is not open. Open would be the code for the drivers is something you can see. Free would mean you can modify it too. Just providing binaries is the bare minimum.

          • Cheeseball

            AFAIK, no manufacturer has released any source code of their GPU drivers or provided a base to build open source drivers on. I understand they don't need to provide sources for those as they're not covered under the GPL.

            Still, I'm just glad they provide the binaries and SDK to work with unlike some other companies who don't even provide kernel source code for their whole Android devices. (e.g. MediaTek, Huawei, etc.)

          • h4rr4r

            Intel does for their GPUs, as does AMD, and nvidia is now providing the open source effort with docs and equipment.

            They GPL the part of the driver that lives in the kernel, just a stub really and use it to load a binary blob.
            Personally I would love to see the courts come down on MediaTek and Huawei like a ton of bricks.

            Intel has done a great job in x86 land with drivers, I want to see that effort continue in the mobile world. PowerVR can go die in a gutter for all I care.

    • kels07

      Says in the article PowerVR 6400/6430 GPUs. Same family as iPhone 5s. Should be pretty good. Also they're targeting midrange with both d chips, not high end.

  • Pitou

    How is this Merrifield compared to existing Haswell on Win8 tablets ?
    Faster, or just different 32/64 architecture ?

    • mustbepbs

      Haswell as in the Core i5's found in Win8 tabs? Haswell blows these out of the water. Although the Atom chips are getting a lot better (starting with Bay Trail).

      • Stefan Eckhardt

        I've had some time with an Asus T100 and am pretty impressed by Bay Trail, Intel clearly got something great going on there after a long period of unchanging slow Atoms.

        • ssj4Gogeta

          Yes, the Airmont core is their first redesign since they launched Atom (in 2008, I think).

        • mustbepbs

          I'm definitely contemplating trading in my G Pad for a Lenovo ThinkPad 8. Bay Trail is nothing to scoff at.

    • ssj4Gogeta

      Haswells (or any other recent Intel microarchitecture targeting full-blown computers) are in a completely different league compared to currently available smartphone/tablet CPUs.

  • mrjayviper

    can't wait for the empire to strike back (hopefully supported by my favorite ROM provider - CM)

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  • deltatux

    I thought these BayTrail+ based SoCs would come with Intel HD graphics and would stop using Imagination Technologies' PowerVR platform...

    • h4rr4r

      I wish that was the case too.

      PowerVR drivers are going to be hard or impossible to get. Welcome to the Poulsbo garbage all over again.

      If Intel put out an SoC with their own graphics I would buy it in a heartbeat.

    • Jon

      I tried to install ubuntu on an atom laptop. Until I found it had unsupported PowerVR graphics. You can imagine how pissed/dissapointed I was. I'm pissed at the horrible support they provide, they only release a single driver for a single OS, and fuck you very much.

  • hoosiercub88

    Are there still some weird issues with Intel SoCs and Android?