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Intel Announces Next-Gen, 64-Bit Merrifield / Moorefield CPUs for Smartphones

Intel has long been the leader in desktop and laptop processors, but the company hasn't made much headway in the smartphone market as only a handful of handsets, none of which currently ship in America, carry its current-gen Atom Z2420 "Medfield" processor. However, the company's mobile fortunes could be about to change as it unveiled a pair of new high-speed, low power 64-bit mobile processor platforms here at Mobile World Congress. With its next-generation Atom Z3400 "Merrifield" dual-core processor and Atom Z3500 "Moorefield" quad-core chip, the company is hoping grab market share from Qualcomm and other ARM-based CPU vendors.

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Due out sometime this spring, Merrifield processors will feature two cores and be  manufactured using Intel's 22nm process,  which allows it to provide more performance at lower power than the current-generation "Clover Trail" platform that's based on a 32nm process. Merrifield will operate at speeds up to 2.13-GHz, feature a speedy PowerVR G6400 graphics processor, support up to 4GB of RAM and 256GB of Flash storage. The chips will support native 1080p decoding, cameras up to 13-MP and the latest version of Android (4.4.2).

The quad-core Moorefield processor line, which will launch in the second half of the year, will also be based on a 22nm manufacturing process, but will run at speeds up to 2.3-GHz. Moorefield CPUs will also support up to 4GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, PowerVR graphics, 13-MP cameras and Android 4.4.2.

Intel says that Merrifield outperformed Apple's A7 CPU and Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 CPU on a number of benchmarks, including WebXPRT 2013 and MobileXPRT 2013 while providing longer battery life than its competitors.

The chip's graphics performance of 66 fps on the GFXBench 2.7 test was much better than the Apple A7's mark of 57 fps but just slightly behind the Qualcomm chip's rate of 69 fps.

Both chips support 64-bit processing and Intel has been testing them on a beta version of Android that is 64-bit. At the press conference, Intel VP Herman Eul held up Android phones with both Merrifield and Moorefield running on 64-bit versions of Android's OS.

In addition to its two processor platforms, Intel announced a couple of standalone LTE modems in the XMM 7160, which supports 15 different bands and provides speeds up to 150 Mbps (LTE Cat 4),  and the XMM 7260, which supports 22 bands at up to 300 Mbps (LTE Cat 6). Intel hopes to see its modems in 300 different designs this year. Eul also announced that ASUS, Dell, Lenovo and Foxconn have all agreed to multi-year partnerships with Intel that will see them using these modems and processors in many of their new devices.

We look forward to seeing how well both Merrifield and Moorefield perform when they appear in phones later this year.

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