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Intel Makes Splash In China With Atom x3 (SoFIA) LTE-TDD, IoT Expansion, New Intel RealSense Camera For Smartphones

In addition to the announcement surrounding Braswell SoCs, Intel had a boatload of news to share out of IDF Shenzen, primarily surrounding the company's global mobile strategy. Intel's SoFIA chips got the LTE-TDD treatment, meaning they'll be compatible with China's mobile networks, and the SoFIA roadmap has been expanded to include IoT applications.

There will also be a new RealSense camera coming, and this one will be available on smartphones.

SoFIA Goes To China

Intel made a strong play into the mobile market (particularly for emerging markets worldwide) with its Atom x3 (SoFIA) and Atom x5 and x7 (Cherry Trail) mobile chips at Mobile World Congress last month, and we're already seeing the platforms evolve.

First, Intel demoed an Atom x3 LTE (SoFIA) chip running an actual smartphone, equipped with LTE-TDD to work in China. The demo ran over China Mobile's network and is expected to be available 2H15. Intel did not specify which chip it was exactly, but we presume that it's the Intel Atom x3-C3340.

The quad-core 1.4 GHz, 64-bit x3-C3340 is built for entry-level and value smartphones and has a Mali-T720 MP2 GPU (which supports Full HD video, OpenGL ES3.0 and OpenCL 1.2). It offers LPDDR2/3 memory, eMMC 4.51 storage and has WiFi, Bluetooth, GLONASS and NFC for connectivity. Intel previously stated that the x3-C3340 should offer double the media editing performance of competitors' similar SoCs.

Already a launch partner, Rockchip CEO Min Li gladhanded with Intel CEO Brian Krzanich on the IDF Shenzen stage to promote the Intel Atom 3G-R (aka the x3-C3230RK, the Rockchip variant of SoFIA). He said that 10 or so ODMs are working on products running the 3G-R chip.

The x3-C2320RK is a 64-bit quad-core SoC clocked at 1.2 GHz with a Mali 450 MP4 GPU intended for lower-end tablets, phablets and smartphones and will be in products on the market worldwide in 2H15. Take "worldwide" with a grain of salt, though; the U.S. is most likely not going to see any of these products.  

Atom x3 And The Internet Of Things

Although in retrospect this makes a great deal of sense, it was perhaps a bit of a surprise to learn that Intel has expanded the Atom x3 roadmap to include the Internet of Things (IoT).

Intel is developing purpose-built Atom x3 SoCs to bring 3G and LTE capabilities, and their low power demands, to IoT for applications such as telematics, dash cams, fleet management, point-of-sale (POS), and specially-designed tablets for industry and healthcare. The idea is that the scope of potential applications could reach all the way to the connected home.

With the new Atom x3 chips for IoT, Intel promised longer life; the parts are guaranteed to last seven to 10 years. Further, they can handle operating conditions from -40 to 85 degrees C, and endure through all sorts of different weather conditions.

Smartphones And RealSense

There was but a quick mention of this last point, but Intel's Krzanich also showed off a new RealSense camera mounted into (onto?) a 6-inch smartphone. Intel said that the new RealSense camera will offer "longer range" than its predecessor.

It's difficult to say what that means, exactly; presumably, he's talking about the RealSense SnapShot Depth camera, which first rolled out on the Dell Venue Tab 7000. You can read our hands on with the camera here. Note that of the issues we examined, range was not one of them. However, it's possible that an increased "range" will lead to more accuracy and consistency.

Dell Venue Tab 7000 with Intel RealSense Snapshot Depth Camera

In any case, the fact that Intel has managed to fit a RealSense camera into such a small device (6 inches versus the Venue Tab 7000's 8-inch form factor) is a notable achievement.

Seth Colaner is the News Director for Tom's Hardware. Follow Seth Colaner @SethColaner. Follow us @tomshardware, on Facebook and on Google+.