What does Intel have to show at IDF?

22nm CPUs and the next Atom

Intel Atom LogoWith the sadly deprecated Beijing IDF looming in a fortnight or so, we at SemiAccurate central were bored, so we poked around for a list of big announcements. There really weren’t any, but the biggest drums to be banged at the show are 22nm CPUs and the next Atom.

You probably know a lot about Ivy Bridge, so we won’t go over that again, but the new Atom is not nearly as talked about. The new Atom is called Cedar Trail, the successor to Pine Trail, and it will be waved around and promised for late this year. For those of you not in the know, Cedar is the Atom pointed at netbooks, and it is built on a 32nm process, presumably the 32-LP variant. Oak Trail is another Atom variant also coming in the near future, it is an update to Moorestown, the last phone/widget Atom.

The lead Cedar product is supposed to be a thin and light net/notebook from Asus (2357:TT), but Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) tends to wave unbranded or internal prototype parts around on the IDF stage. Performance will go up a little, platform power down by more, and the collective yawns at the China National Convention Center won’t just be the jetlag.

As for the parts of the chip, it is half new. The south bridge is the same one used in the N570, It has a full speed 1x PCIe2 slot now, and the CPU/north bridge are new 32nm parts. Why yawns then? Intel simply doesn’t get the market, it is trying to brute force chips in to a segment that doesn’t want it by delivering features that no one cares about. The CPUs may be, no are, technically brilliant silicon, but they don’t have, and will never get, the features people are willing to pay for.

In late 2011, how likely are you to buy a netbook without USB3? Without DX11 graphics? Heck this is Intel, so without functional graphics, just something that meets the minimum checkboxes to get onto a Best Buy shelf without massive subsidies. <sarcasm>AMD is probably scared silly by this part</sarcasm>, their upcoming Brazos based tablet chip uses almost twice the wattage, but that gap narrows a lot once you consider chipsets, not to mention extra chips Atom needs to vie for consumer interests.

For about the power you would squander by turning your screen brightness up two notches, Brazos gets you DX11, PCIe3, SATA6, and more than enough I/O to support USB3. On top of that, Brazos solutions sell for much less than their Atom counterparts. Now you see why we say Cedar Trail isn’t very appealing? Which would you choose?(1)

Intel really needs to stop their internal squabbles, ulterior motives, and start focusing on products again, ASAP. About the time that Cedar Trail pops out, it will be facing off against Krishna, so the Atom advantage will be far smaller, and the disadvantages far greater. Cedar Trail may cost more, be technically superior, but none of its competitors can match its yawn-inducing lack of features.S|A

(1) Honestly, probably something ARM A9 based for tablets, but Brazos for netbooks, no question.

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Charlie Demerjian

Roving engine of chaos and snide remarks at SemiAccurate
Charlie Demerjian is the founder of Stone Arch Networking Services and SemiAccurate.com. SemiAccurate.com is a technology news site; addressing hardware design, software selection, customization, securing and maintenance, with over one million views per month. He is a technologist and analyst specializing in semiconductors, system and network architecture. As head writer of SemiAccurate.com, he regularly advises writers, analysts, and industry executives on technical matters and long lead industry trends. Charlie is also available through Guidepoint and Mosaic. FullyAccurate