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Intel introduces 22nm Silvermont Atom: The Empire Strikes Back

Intel introduced its first new mobile core since 2008 on Tuesday, dubbed Silvermont. Intel is hoping the chip will be its ARM-killer. 

Intel introduced introduced its first new Atom core since 2008 called “Silvermont” Tuesday, in an attempt to win back some mobile market share from ARM.

Prior to the release of Silvermont, Intel was has been running what is essentially the same core in its Atom chips since their inception in 2008. That means Clover Trail and Clover Trail+ were just tweaked versions of the same 32nm Saltwell core that hit the market in 2008. These were by no means bad chips, in fact they could hold their own transistor-for-transistor against ARM’s Cortex A9, but the 32nm fab process kept them out of the mainstream and allowed ARM to dominate.

Intel’s move down to a 22nm multigate FinFET fab means that Silvermont should perform faster for a lower TDP than its ARM-based competition. FinFET means the chip will feature Intel’s proprietary 3D transistors, which allow the chip to have more transistors per square inch than its competition from the likes of NVIDIA or Qualcomm. Intel is also including out-of-order execution (OoOE) functionality on the chip, which allows for instructions to be processed in a non-linear fashion as soon as data is available rather than in a linear format as found in the program’s code.

Though details are currently scant, it looks like Intel is taking cues from Tegra’s +1 core setup to allow Silvermont to power part of itself down to turn down its power draw when necessary.

While Intel will certainly be pushing Silvermont into tablets and smartphones, another market for the chip is also low-power servers. Famously, AMD purchased low power server maker Sea Micro last year — reportedly beating Intel to the punch. With Silvermont, Intel could be making a play back into this market.  

Silvermont is part of Intel’s tick-tock cadence. Next comes a big jump to a 14nm fab process with Airmont and another unnamed 14nm processor currently in the pipe.

Silvermont, and Intel’s upcoming 14nm processors, shows the company still has a mobile fight left in it. This should sooth investor’s fears that Intel and x86 might struggle for relevancy in a post-PC world.  

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