Intel eyes mobile market with Medfield

The smartphone and tablet markets are currently dominated by ARM’s low-power sipping RISC chips. However, Intel is hoping to enter the hyper-competitive space in 2012 with its x86 Medfield SoC.

Indeed, Santa Clara recently showcased a number of Medfield-powered prototype smartphones and tablets that were given a test run by MIT’s Technology Review.

“This is our first offering that’s truly a single chip [and] we expect products based on these to be announced in the first half of 2012,” Intel rep Stephen Smith told the publication.

“Now [that] we have this in place, we can accelerate [our mobile roadmap]. We haven’t been able to show a production-grade design before.”

Unsurprisingly, Intel’s smartphone prototype is currently similar in dimensions to the iPhone 4 and runs Android Ice Cream Sandwich.

“The phone was powerful and pleasing to use, on a par with the latest iPhone and Android handsets,” wrote Tom Simonite.

“It could play Blu-Ray-quality video and stream it to a TV if desired; Web browsing was smooth and fast, [as] Intel built circuits into Medfield  specifically to speed up Android apps and Web browsing. One feature that stood out was the camera’s ‘burst mode,’ which captures 10 full-size eight-megapixel images at a rate of 15 per second.”

According to Simonite, Intel’s Medfield-powered reference tablet also runs Android Ice Cream Sandwich. The prototype boasts a slightly larger screen than the iPad 2, yet is approximately the same in terms of thickness and weight.

“A limited trial suggested that it was noticeably nicer to use than older tablets based on the abandoned Honeycomb version of Android,” he added.

Unfortunately, Tech Review neglects to mention approximate battery life in relation to the Medfield-powered prototype devices, an issue that is absolutely critical for smartphones and tablets.

No one doubts that Intel chips will rival and even exceed ARM processors in terms of performance. However, it remains unclear if Intel has managed to significantly extend battery life in real life scenarios and applications – something which could make or break its mobile battle against ARM.