Intel Reveals 22nm Atom Plans

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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Tri-Gate-based Atoms will beat ARM-based systems on power and performance, says Intel

Intel has revealed more details on its latest push into the mobile chip market, specifying that its latest 22-nanometre manufacturing process for integrated processors, or systems-on-a-chip (SoC), will debut for its Atom systems sometime in 2013.

The chips will introduce Intel’s “three-dimensional” Tri-Gate transistor technology into mobile devices, Intel’s latest effort to compete with mobile SoCs based on ARM technology and manufactured by the likes of Apple, Nvidia, Qualcomm and others. The battle is particularly important for Intel as it watches the decline of the PC market it has depended upon in the past.

Next generation Atom

Intel’s current mobile SoCs, sold under the Atom name, are manufactured using features measuring 32nm, while others, including Qualcomm, have already moved to 28nm processes. Intel already uses 22nm manufacturing processes for its PC chips, but has yet to shift its more complex SoCs to the process.

4G, Mobile, Smartphone © Digital Storm Shutterstock 2012In a paper presented at the 2012 International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) in San Francisco on Monday Intel specified that its next-generation Atom chips will use a 22nm manufacturing process specially adapted for low-power SoC products, incorporating low standby power and high-voltage transistors along with high-speed logic transistors.

The result is what Intel called industry-leading performance and record low leakage levels, a measure of power efficiency – something that is crucial for mobile products that depend on battery power, and is also tipped to be increasingly useful in server products.

The chips will also include the Tri-Gate transistors introduced into Intel’s Core and Xeon processors last year. The upcoming chips will run 22 percent to 65 percent faster than the 32nm generation, and will offer a wide array of component choices for chip designers, Intel said in its paper.

The next-generation Atom chips will be aimed at “premium smartphones, tablets, netbooks, embedded systems, wireless communications, and ASIC products”, Intel said.


First discussed in 2002, Tri-Gate transistors were introduced into Intel’s “Ivy Bridge” chips last year and are eventually expected to replace planar transistors completely. In Xeon and Core chips, the 22nm 3-D Tri-Gate transistors provided up to 37 percent performance increase at low voltage compared to Intel’s previous 32nm planar transistors.

IBM presented a paper on its own 22nm process at the same conference, saying it expects to see a 25 to 35 percent performance improvement over its 32nm process.

Earlier this year Intel attracted controversy when it said its “Clover Trail” Atom chips would only support Linux and Google’s Android operating system later, after focusing first on Microsoft’s Windows 8 OS.

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