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June 07, 2013

Intel Mobile Apps Processor Outperforms NVIDIA, Qualcomm and Samsung

It is no secret that Intel has been working around the clock to deliver next generations of its various microprocessor architectures - we believe the company has finally regained its footing and is moving quickly in the right directions to do so. Both its new Haswell and Silvermont SoC architectures, built on 22 nanometer manufacturing, are key indicators of this.

In addition to far better onboard graphics support and significantly faster processing, a key Intel design goal has been to greatly cut down on both power requirements (current drain and draw) and heat generation. As new devices - whether smartphones, tablets or Ultrabooks - become ever smaller in dimensions (or actually, thinner), power and heat management become perhaps "the" most critical parameters for SoCs. Our view of it with Haswell and Silvermont is that Intel has made significant process here for next generations of its architectures.

Today comes further news of Intel's ability to begin meeting power management requirements, this time in the form of a new ABI Research report based on ABI testing of today's available generation of key mobile processors. ABI reports that Intel’s latest application processor, the Z2580, now sets the smartphone processor bar not only for performance but for current drain as well.

In ABI's benchmark tests the Intel XMM6360 modem chipset and Z2580 application processor contained in Lenovo's K900 smartphone clearly outperformed the competition. 

ABI Research VP of engineering Jim Mielke notes, “The benchmarks were impressive, but the real surprise was the current consumption recorded during the benchmarks. The new Intel processor not only outperformed the competition in performance but it did so with up to half the current drain.”

Though Mielke is surprised, we certainly are not. We are, however, pleased with the fact that Intel is proving our belief in its capabilities here is not misplaced. The table below provides the key head to head metrics of the benchmark tests.

The chart shows head-to-head numbers for handsets and tablets that have been recently introduced and contain new mobile chipsets that range among the NVIDIA Tegra 3 (Asus Nexus 7), Qualcomm's APQ8064T (Samsung Galaxy S4 i377, sold in the U.S.), Samsung's Exynos Octa (Galaxy S4 i9500, sold outside of the U.S.), the Samsung Exynos 5250 (Nexus 10) and Intel, as already noted.

For the CPU test, three phones scored in the 5000 range for performance, but of the three, Intel stood out with only 0.85A of average current vs. 1.38A for the Samsung, and 1.79A for the Qualcomm. These are significant differences - and noteworthy proof that Intel is delivering on its mobile promises. Similar trends are seen for each test. If one of the chips did have lower current, the performance was significantly lower or if the performance was better, the current was higher.

ABI also notes the following:

  • The only test where a competitor matched the performance of the Intel Z2580 was for 1080p video recording.
  • The Galaxy S4 i377 had lower current drain, but this was not due to the Qualcomm APQ8064T. Instead it was because of a separate image processor from Fujitsu.
  • The Samsung Exynos Octa performed well without a separate image processor in both the 1080p and 3D graphics tests, outscoring all - but with proportionally higher current compared to the Intel Z2580.

Mielke adds that, “Intel did significant work to bring the current drain down on their well-recognized high-performance processors, but the competitors did not help themselves here. The underlying ARM core architecture used by nearly all of Intel’s competitors is well known for its low power performance but in bringing the processing power up closer to PC levels, the current drain has taken a significant hit.” 

In other words, as Intel finally refocuses its attention on the mobile marketplace, it finds itself in a rather nice position - having already delivered on power management and greatly improved performance it can in fact possibly take over as the clear leader in the mobile space. That the competitors haven't kept up with the power management side is likely to become a significant Intel competitive advantage going forward.

Mielke concurs with our thinking. He goes on to say, “Combining its high-end modem, the XMM6360, used in both the Lenovo K900 and the Samsung Galaxy S4 i9500, with Intel's application processors for high-to mid-tier solutions and single-chip EDGE chips for low-cost phones makes Intel a rare full portfolio provider.”

We're personally glad to see Intel begin to reclaim some leadership. The mobile world is in need of Intel delivering, and it's good to see that Intel appears to be doing so.

Edited by Alisen Downey

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