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Intel Shows Off Android Phone and Tablet Powered By Low-Power Medfield Processor

LAS VEGAS -- Intel has been talking about its low-power Medfield processor for over a year, but today at CES the company demonstrated the new platform's Android prowess on two separate devices: an unbranded sample handset running Android 2.3 Gingerbread and a Lenovo tablet prototype running Android Ice Cream Sandwich.

Both devices were powered by the same 1.6-GHz Intel Atom Z2460 CPU, which will be the marketing name for what was formerly codenamed "Medfield." The single core chip is the first 32nm mobile processor and comes equipped with Intel's graphics media accelerator graphics and supports the company's WiDi wireless display technology, a first for Android devices.  The chipset also supports NFC, which means that it could be used for mobile payments.

We watched as an Intel spokesperson showed off the Android phone prototype and its ability to output both HD video and a 3D Gameloft helicopter game playing on an external display. Since the Atom Z2460 CPU is capable of both encoding and decoding HD video at the same time, the phone's front-facing camera is HD, so when mobile apps like Skype support it the device will be able to do video calls in up to 1080p resolution.

Another Intel rep demoed an unbranded 10-inch Lenovo tablet running Ice Cream Sandwich. When he opened an app called "body" that lets you rotate a 3D model of the human body and zoom in on different parts of the model, zooming and rotating were incredibly smooth. The game "Cut the Rope" also ran very smoothly.

Though the CPU has only one core in a market where competitors have quad-core chips, it does handle multiple threads, and in our demos, it proved more than fast enough to power through intense 3D graphics and video. Achieving low-power parity with its ARM competitors is key to Intel's success. Battery life is highly dependent on the device maker's choice of screen, battery and other components, but Intel says its prototype phone should last up to 8 hours on 3G, 5 hours of 3G browsing and 14 days of standby. The Lenovo tablet should last 8 to 9 hours.

While we did not get to see the wireless display technology in action, we're intrigued by its possibilities. All Core i5 and higher notebooks today support WiDi, which allows users to stream content securely from their laptops to their large-screen TVs. Imagine streaming videos, photos or even games directly from your phone or tablet to your home theater while you sit on the couch. An Intel rep told us that the company is actively working with smart TV and set-top box manufacturers to expand support for WiDi in the Android space.  

We look  forward to seeing more Medfield-based devices in action. There's no word yet on when commercial products will ship with these chips, but what we saw seemed very promising.