back to article Ultra-mobile devices: Atom to beat ARM... just, says analyst

Can ARM mount a serious challenge for Intel's Atom processor family? Market watcher ABI Research thinks so - it has forecast that almost half of all UMPCs, SCCs and MIDs will be ARM-based come 2013. It also reckons that for every Windows device that's sold, two more Linux machines will be snapped up, though ABI admitted that …


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  1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    ARM's cleaner design beats Intel's smaller manufacuring process

    Intel CPU's have a fast risc core and huge number of transistors to convert X86 instructrutions into risc instructions. ARM (and MIPS) are risc cores, so the do not need to waste transistors and power converting a legacy instruction set into something that can be decoded efficiently.

    Intel and Via CPU's use power to get data to and from the north bridge. The north bridge uses power to get data to and from the memory. ARM (and MIPS) CPU's have a memory controller built in like AMD CPU's, so it only takes half the power to get data from memory to the CPU compared to an Intel or Via chipset.

    These two advantages more than make up for the better manufacturing processes that Intel uses for Atoms. ARM (and MIPS) give better performance per watt than X86. Also you do not need to pay for the massively over-priced Inhell Inside sticker, so you get better performance per £ too.

    The other advantage of ARM (and MIPS) is that closed source software vendors have difficulty supplying multiple variants of their binaries. Stick to open source applications and you can compile them whenever you change architectures (If you are too computer-illiterate to compile programs yourself, Gentoo automates the process for you). You will never have to wait two years and pay an buy the software again like you did when you went from x86 to AMD64.

    ARM and MIPS have good economies of scale for devices. If PHB's understood the value of ARM and MIPS, we would see economies of scale for laptops (laptop: a notebook that will not catch fire if you cover the cooling vents by using it on your lap.)

  2. John Browne

    Arm cores are everywhere

    Arm cores are imbedded in everything from Nintendo DSs to sensors in cars. Arms have picked up the slack from the old 8086 imbedded processor market. I think intel have a long way to go to challange to take back that kind of market penetration.

  3. Neil
    Dead Vulture

    Intel FUD - and you bought it hook, line & sinker

    Nokia Internet Tablets are ARM based, run Linux, are only slightly larger than a typical smartphone yet they provide the "full internet" experience including Flash 9 in either Opera, WebKit or Firefox browsers.

    Intel's point is wafer thin and if you were to consider the Nokia Tablet range then Intel is 100% incorrect and guilty of outright FUD - lies, infact.

    Nokia have been shipping the full internet experience on ARM in a MID form factor since November 2005 - the bullsh1t being spread by Intel smacks of desperation as the end user isn't going to give a stuff whether their device is running ARM or x86, all they'll care about is the battery lifetime which is where Intel sucks big-time and they know it. Application availability is not going to be an issue with most Linux apps cross-compiling quite happily.

    And have you ever wondered why Intel are spending so much time and effort working on fast-boot support in Linux[1]? It's because Atom CPUs need to power down in order to achieve acceptable battery lifetime and nobody is willing to wait 1-2 minutes for their device to boot, so a five-second boot time for Linux becomes absolutely essential if Atom is to stand a chance in a mobile environment. Contrast that with an ARM device that never has to switch off... maybe it will be rebooted once a month, if that. I know which I would prefer so stop buying into the Intel hype/bullsh1t!


  4. Dave


    Given the fact that you've got x86, 486, 586, 686, etc. flavours of the Intel line, recompilation for best performance already exists with that architecture. Why shouldn't the ARM line be the same?

  5. Jason Alcock

    Nokia MID series

    Don't forget the N770, N800 & N810 series of MID's from Nokia. These do run Flash, have a solid AJAX browser (gecko engine) and high enough resolution screen (800x480) to give a decent web surfing experience.

    These device are ARM powered, and having owend one for a year, they are just that bit underpowered. Anytime I hit a website with complex Flash or significant Javascript the surfing gets painful.

    I'm sure that part of the problem is OS/browser optimisation, however the ARM chip does need more processing power for living with Web 2.0. That is the open door Intel may be able to walk through. Can ARM respond in time?

  6. Neil


    The current OMAP2-based Nokia Tablet hardware is more than powerful enough for Web2.0 in theory, it's the unoptimised browsers that are the problem.

    Most of the browser manufacturers are now focusing heavily on optimising their Javascript performance and are realising significant performance gains so when this goodness becomes available on the Nokia Tablets (which it will) your current hardware will get a new lease of life... And the future Nokia Tablets will be based on OMAP3 which will offer better performance than OMAP2 so should be even better than that which is available today.

    Atom performance in general is pretty abysmal, so with properly optimised software the ARM hardware is more than a match. Plus, the ARM devices will run for many hours longer than Intel on a single charge...

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