Hot off the heels of the official launch of Intel’s new ‘Merrifield’ Atom platform, we have now had a chance to get a bit more hands on in the shape of a first look at the Intel ‘Merrifield’ Smartphone reference design. Nicole was on the show floor at Mobile World Congress today, where she managed to track down Intel’s prototype device and get a taste of Intel’s latest weapon in the battle for mobile silicon supremacy.
First of all, what exactly is a ‘reference design’? Well, the new Intel atom Z3460/Z3480 Merrifield architecture processors was announced officially just a few hours ago and of course they have yet to be integrated into an actual Smartphone product. As with any new processor platform however, Intel wants to show the new and improved performance of the platform, so they co-operate with a manufacturer (most likely one of the larger more experienced OEMs of China or Taiwan) and together they build a special reference design device that Intel can confident will show the new technology in the best possible light. This is useful for Intel, because they can then use the reference device to show potential customers their new platform as well as media like us who also want a taste of Intel’s next generation of silicon.
So although the device itself should not really be seen as a genuine product, it does give insight into what direction Intel is taking. Intel Atom products did not always suit thinner, smaller designs due to thermal issues with their x86 approach to processor design, so it’s interesting to see the reference design is in fact a smaller 4.5” Smartphone device. This can be sen as a deliberate sign of confidence that Merrifield will finally give Intel the chance to get into the broader, high volume Smartphone segment.
From this video it’s also clear that Intel are not afraid of journalists getting a hands on taste of the raw overall performance of these new Intel Atom system-on-chip processors. The GUI looks pretty much as smooth as anything we’ve seen, with very snappy transitions within Android 4.4.
Here are some gaming benchmarks that Intel provided us with for the official launch earlier today.
Finally, as Nicole mentioned it’s still way to early to really assess the true performance of these new ‘Merrifield’ Intel Atom processors, but that is certainly something that we are very excited about doing – and will do so the first chance we get. For now, the reference design shows the direction that Intel are heading in and also offers proof of concept for customers and media alike.