Intel trash-talks ARM on mobile

ARM currently dominates the lucrative mobile market (smartphones and tablets) with its low-power sipping RISC chips. And Intel?

Well, Santa Clara recently launched its first wave of Intel-powered Android smartphones in India, China and the UK. Although initial reviews of the x86 handsets have been positive, Intel obviously has quite an uphill climb before it is a major mobile contender. 

But that hasn’t stopped Intel’s PR machine from kicking into overdrive and extolling the virtues of everything x86 in mobile.

Indeed, Mike Bell, Intel’s chief of mobile, recently went so far as to claim he sees “no data” to support the claim that ARM architecture is more efficient.

“For a long time, we were trying to battle hearsay with PowerPoint presentations. The only real way to do it is to build an actual device and say ‘Look, go measure it yourself,” Bell told Sebastian Anthony of ExtremeTech. 

“[Look], it’s complicated. We’re not the lowest in power consumption, but we’re the lowest in some things. Doing 1080p video [on the Xolo X900] we’re a little higher than other phones doing 720p — but those phones can’t do 1080p. Standby time, we’re at the top of the pack. Power-wise, we’re good; performance-wise, we either exceed by a large amount, or we’re roughly the same — and in some of those cases, we consume less power during the benchmarks.”

According to Bell, there is nothing in the ARM instruction set that is more or less energy efficient than any other instruction set. 

“[Really], it’s all about the implementation and the process technology; whether you target power, or speed, or both… I see no data that supports the claims that ARM is more efficient.”

Bell also touted Intel’s 30 of years of chip experience, which supposedly allowed Santa Clara to design a “smarter” chip than ARM.

“We’re taking everything we learnt building desktop and laptop cores over the years, and putting the secret sauce into Saltwell and Silvermont,” he said.

“The nice thing about being a company that does end-to-end – everything from CPU core design to fab – means that we can do a feedback loop. I can make a change to the process technology, and know what happens from a power consumption perspective.”

Finally, Bell claimed it would be quite difficult for companies lacking an end-to-end capability to keep up with Intel on the chip front. 

“When you see people working on 9nm – I see the guys in their bunny suits, doing the mask generation for the chips – you realize this is probably one of the most difficult industries I’ve ever seen… There are very few companies on Earth who have the capabilities we’ve talked about, and going forward I don’t think anyone will be able to match us. There are few things in life that you can’t buy into – and I honestly believe this is one of them,” he added.