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

Graphics And Video

A bit of poking around and combining sources led me to make a few comparisons that Intel itself didn’t want to discuss during its Moorestown briefing.

The Palm Pre and Apple iPhone 3GS both use a Texas Instruments OMAP3430 processor based on ARM’s Cortex A8 core and a PowerVR SGX GPU. Both are considered very strong on graphics, and are well-known for their lush 3D interfaces, right? The Snapdragon processor found in phones such as Google’s Nexus One, the HTC Incredible, and HTC’s EVO 4G has half the peak fill rate of the TI processor. Believe it or not, Menlow outperformed the OMAP3430 by 60 percent—you just never heard about it because battery life (or lack thereof) overshadowed everything else. But the kicker is that Moorestown, with its 400 MHz GPU, doubles Menlow’s fill rate, and Medfield, the successor to Moorestown, will double this rate yet again. To accommodate this bandwidth, Intel had to revamp the CPU-to-graphics bus, raising it to 6.4 GB/s on reads and 4.3 GB/s on writes, figures that Intel quipped were “ridiculously high.”

Intel builds plenty of standards support into its “Thalia” graphics core, including OpenVG 1.1, OpenGL 2.1, OpenGL ES 2.0, and DirectX 9.L. The emphasis on OpenGL no doubt explains why Intel loves to showcase Moorestown running a Doom 3 timedemo (at around 100 FPS), but this also pays off in accelerating vector graphics and supporting apps like Adobe Flash Player. This also plays a key part in making the Moblin/MeeGo 3D Clutter UI so compelling.

Just as the graphics support is very similar between Menlow and Moorestown (including their mutual support for SSE3 instructions), the same is true for video. Lincroft can handle simultaneous 1080p30 HD and SD decoding. If you’re willing to accept 480p, MPEG-2 quality, Lincroft can tackle up to half a dozen video streams at once. Such hefty capabilities are possible because of Intel’s integrated acceleration features. On the video side, Lincroft bakes in hardware acceleration for MPEG-2 and H.264/MPEG-4 encoding and decoding. Also tack on hardware decoding of WMV and VC-1 as well as software decoding for MPEG-1, Xvid, Real Video, and Adobe Flash Video. Photo buffs will appreciate that Lincroft adds hardware acceleration for JPEG encoding.

Video addicts will wonder about bit rates, so know that Moorestown can handle 20 Mb/s on every profile, from 720p baseline at 30 FPS to 1080p high profile at 30 FPS. No other phone platform available today can decode 1080p. Only a few can even touch 720p MP at 10 Mb/s. Intel mentioned that the Aava Mobile-produced Moorestown reference design has enough decode bandwidth to blast through 40 Mb/s, although you’d never likely encounter such content. More likely, you might want to decode two 20 Mb/s streams concurrently.

Intel may now own the video crown in this segment—whoever thought we’d use that phrase in print?—but competition is coming up fast. In early 2009, TI announced its OMAP 4 series based on ARM’s Cortex-A9. The A9 will reportedly deliver a 7x performance gain, enabling 1080p video recording, capture of 20-megapixel images (good luck affording the sensors for that), and battery runtime able to play back MP3s for one week straight. If it seems strange for Intel to be hinting strongly at Medfield before Moorestown even arrives, the A9 would be why.

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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?