Meet Moorestown: Intel's Atom Platform For The Next 10 Billion Devices

Platform And Process

Keep in mind that there are multiple families and architectures within the Atom processor family. In this article, we’re specifically focused on Moorestown and the Z-series, which is aimed at handhelds and tablets. There’s also the N-series for netbooks, the CE-series for TVs, D-series chips for entry-level desktops (D), an embedded series , and a future family “for gadgets” about which Intel wouldn’t even divulge a code-name. The ways in which these series differentiate are largely based on power profiles and performance expectations. We’re not to the point with Atom where one architecture, such as Core 2 or Core i3/5/7, applies to the entire stack. Perhaps it never will.

With Menlow, we had a platform architecture much like the classic PC design—a standalone CPU on top, with an integrated chipset below, similar to the old school northbridge and southbridge being combined into a single Platform Controller Hub (PCH). The Poulsbo chipset crammed in everything but the kitchen sink, and did it all on a relatively giant 130 nm fab process.

The architectural difference in jumping to Moorestown is massive. All that gets retained of the former chipset is the I/O complex. Memory, video, and graphics all migrate to the CPU—and not just in the package but on the actual die. Langwell uses a 65 nm process. Lincroft appears to match Silverthorne’s 45 nm process, but Intel is always careful to note that Lincroft uses a “45 nm SoC” process. It’s not the same process as before, or even a “retweaking” of it. Details here get vague.

While Intel maintains that the rest of the industry is still using 65 nm, Lincroft preserves Silverthorne’s 45 nm process. Recall that Intel’s 45 nm node was notable for its adoption of hafnium high-k dielectric technology, which got a lot of attention when it debuted in the Nehalem microarchitecture. Hafnium high-k, according to Intel, could reduce transistor-level gate leakage by over 100 times compared to the prior silicon dioxide dielectric process used with 65 nm technology. There’s more to Intel’s “LP SoC” process than hafnium, though, but engineers grew cryptic on this point. They stated that with Lincroft there was the “option of multiple transistors” as opposed to Silverthorne having “only one transistor end to end.” Then there were some furtive glances between the engineers and the press crew, and Intel would say no more on the matter. I suppose everyone is entitled to their hard-earned secret sauce.

The dimensional upshot of the Moorestown architecture is that we now have a 30% die reduction, a 40% package reduction, and a 50% motherboard reduction, reflecting significant consolidation across the platform. You’ll often see the Moorestown CPU package specified at 13.8 mm x 13.8 mm (Silverthorne was 25 mm2), but the actual die measures only 7.34 mm x 8.89 mm. One former Menlow reference design for handsets measured 75 x 148 mm. An equivalent Moorestown reference board I saw measured 69 x 130 mm, and that was with over one-third of the board surface sitting empty for an on-board battery.

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  • silverx75
    Man, and the HTC Incredible just came out....
  • yannifb
    Huh, i wonder how this will compete with Bobcat, which supposedly will have 90% of desktop chip performance according to AMD.
  • descendency
    Why isn't this a 32nm product yet? If your concern (which it would be with said devices) is power consumption, shrinking the die can only help...
  • Greg_77
    silverx75Man, and the HTC Incredible just came out....

    Man, and I just got the HTC Incredible... ;)

    And so the march of technology continues!
  • Anonymous
    well we can only wait till amd gets their ULV chips out with their on die graphics so we can get a nice comparison.
  • Chemist87
    Can it run Crysis?
  • williamvw
    descendencyWhy isn't this a 32nm product yet? If your concern (which it would be with said devices) is power consumption, shrinking the die can only help...

    Time to market. 45 nm was quicker for development and it accomplished what needed to get done at this time. That's the official answer. Unofficially, sure, we all know 32 nm will help, but this is business for consumers. Right or wrong, you don't play all of your cards right away.
  • seboj
    I've only had time to read half the article so far, but I'm excited! Good stuff, good stuff.
  • burnley14
    This is more exciting to me than the release of 6-core processors and the like because these advances produce tangible results for my daily use. Good work Intel!
  • ta152h
    Do we really need x86 plaguing phones now? Good God, why didn't they use a more efficient instruction set for this? Compatibility isn't very important with the PC, since all the software will be new anyway.

    I like the Atom, but not in this role. x86 adds inefficiencies that aren't balanced by a need for compatibility in this market.
  • liquidsnake718
    I wonder how this would stack up in terms of simple benches when compared to the atoms? Definitly for power this one is a sure winner by far but this will be interesting to see since the line between server, desktop, laptop, netbook, and mobile phone processors are getting blurred
  • anamaniac
    I'm impressed, and I hope this goes far. Sounds like some awesome performance for a x86 chip that competes to RISC chips.

    I was considering buying a Sony Satio, but now I may rethink it.
    1366x768 multi-touch S-AMOLED, magnesium case, 802.11 b/g/n, 3G/4G, miniDP, miniHDMI, miniDVI, microUSB, 64GB high quality flash memory, 12MP main camera with a 5MP front facing camera, a new turbo boost that pumps cocaine into the chip until it gets too hot when the performance is needed but puts the chip to sleep in idle, and a Linux based OS specifically tailored to the chip. Sounds like something I would pay a lot for. Complete desktop PC replacement. :)

    Don't disappoint me Intel. I was hoping for 32nm 8 core LGA 1366 chips by now when I originally bought my i7 system, and you already disappointed me.

    Now only if 5GB/month on 3G didn't cost $85/month in my area, never mind the texting/calling plan.
  • technoholic
    Intel will for sure put these advancements in their upcoming Desktop CPU families. Low power consumption + high performance anyone?
  • steddy
    I noticed that on the last page of the article there was a reference to "IA Architecture". Is that a typo, or did you mean to be redundant?
  • JohnnyLucky
    Read the whole article. Read several sections twice. It sure sounds good. Wondering what the monthly fee for service will be in 2015.
  • jesseralston
    As mentioned earlier, has developed a tight allegiance to the Linux-based MeeGo OS, formerly known as Moblin before Intel and Nokia joined hands.
    Missed something here that seems fairly critical to the sentence.
  • Snipergod87
    The next checkbox item is battery life. The reality is that we all charge our phones every night. Occasionally, some unforeseen adventure or bout of brain impairment might result in needing to stretch for three or four days, but it’s rare to need a phone’s standby battery time to last for more than 48 hours

    I charge my phone once every week, i would be pretty angry if it didnt hold a charge longer than 48 hours.
  • erloas
    I also only charge my phone once a week, if that. On the same token my phone is now 2 years old and still holds a charge for a week. A lot of people that charge their phone every day also tend to have phones that won't hold a charge longer then a day or two after a year anyway.

    I also don't see the use of all these MIDs. I hardly even take my laptop out because I have a desktop and other then movement there is nothing the laptop can do that I wouldn't rather use my desktop for.

    MIDs might be ok if they didn't cost an extra $30-50 a month to get access to the internet which I'm already paying $30-50 a month for for my general usage. They might start making sense when someone like Qwest starts included DSL and wireless together for a single reasonable monthly fee so I'm not paying twice for the same thing.

    And unless you absolutely have to know the instant you get an email, and can't go more then a few hours without updating your facebook page, I don't see a daily usage for mobile internet. I probably don't think "boy it would be nice if I could check the internet while I'm out" more then once every couple months.
  • neiroatopelcc
    Articlewill be things like gaming consoles, connected cars, or whatever, we’re still talking about multiple billions of connected handheld devices in use.

    Good luck holding a car in your hands!

    Anyhow, the article seems mighty detailed compared to what we're used to here. Usually only don writes anything this detailed.

    Nice read, though imo the first page looks very much like a bought article.
  • jecastej
    Yeah great news I think about what this all means for me! The ultramobile sector growing so fast and becoming more and more preeminent. So much excitement at your hand disposal. I don't know, call me pessimist but when looking at those charts I think the best years for desktop computing started to decline a while ago, sniff. Why, well because I see that the huge market dictates where the real money goes for development. Up to these days the desktop enjoyed most of the investment and this is because the mass market wanted faster computers for everything. And now a regular laptop is powerful enough for 90% of the task most users do and will sell 2 or 3 or more times faster. Soon smaller mobile form factor PCs will dominate and I guess my beloved desktop and workstation parts will start to cost more and be updated less frecuently. I am sitting in front of a workstation all day long and I desire a faster progression for the workstations and no any sigh of slow down.

    Anyway beside the progress in the mobile and ultramobile sector I picture in the not so distant future an ultramobile CPU with memory and graphics and storage system the size of a phone in a modular and stackable design and you will have some very serious and scalable mobile supercomputing power. But will mobile form factor CPUs ever going to surpass the need for a desktop machine? Has the computing revolution started from the bottom up and I just noticed?