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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Intel's New Chip Line Could Give Cheap Smartphones a Big Boost

As reported by WiredThe arrival of new mobile processors rarely qualifies as big news. But Intel’s latest family of chips, announced at Mobile World Congress today, are both powerful and cheap, and are sure to drive the industry trend of high-capability, low-cost smartphones to even greater extremes.

The Atom X3, X5 and X7 processors will show up in a wide range of 2015’s smartphones and tablets. The processor family is arranged much like its desktop Core “i” line, with the X3 being the lowest end of the bunch. The X3 is Intel’s previously announced Project SoFIA (“Smart or Feature phone with Intel Architecture”). It’s a cheap, entry-level system-on-a-chip with either a 3G or 4G LTE modem, Bluetooth, and x86 architecture-based application processors.

This chip is notable because it could enable much more capable phone hardware at the $50 price point, which will be a huge boon to smartphone adoption in developing nations. More than 20 device manufacturers have signed on to incorporate this chip into their hardware designs.  The first devices incorporating the Atom X3 chip (in a dual-core 3G variety) will arrive this quarter, while quad-core 3G and LTE versions will arrive by the end of the first half of the year.

The X5 and X7 series, meanwhile, are Intel’s mainstream and high-end mobile chipsets, and the first 14 nanometer SoCs for tablets. They have double the graphics capabilities of Intel’s previous-generation chips, without compromising battery life, and support features like Intel’s RealSense 3-D experience (which we checked out on the Dell Venue 8 7000 tablet) as well as its TrueKey face-recognition-based password authentication. You’ll find these two chips on Android and Windows tablets from Acer, Lenovo, Dell, HP, Asus, and Toshiba debuting during the first half of 2015.

Intel’s last hardware announcement for Mobile World Congress is a new LTE Advanced modem, the XMM 7360. This is the chip that connects you to your carrier’s wireless network, and with this one, Intel is promising more stable connections and faster speeds. Appearing in devices beginning the second half of the year, it’ll offer 450 Mbps down as well as something called carrier aggregation, which basically makes data usage more efficient, so users can get higher peak data rates.

You may wonder, with Intel’s huge focus on wearables in 2014, where the smartwatches at? Intel hasn’t forgotten about your wrist—company reps tell me we should expect more news on that front very soon.