updated 06:15 pm EST, Mon March 2, 2009
Intel Atom Z500 Series
Intel this afternoon continued on its Atom emphasis with the launch of the Atom Z500 series and matching chipsets. Originally codenamed Poulsbo, the processor platform is Intel's first Atom generation targeted at very small embedded devices and accomplishes the feat by creating a much smaller footprint beyond the processor. A new, smaller system controller package integrates both graphics and the usual input/output controller hub into a single chip.
The new design is considered one of Intel's most power-efficient and is designed to run in enclosures where cooling fans aren't options, even when temperatures as high as 70C exist. Simpler versions of the Atom processor itself use just 2W of power, while a complete system can use less than 5W depending on components.
To that end, Intel claims it's possible to use the Z500 series for a new class of device Intel refers to as a media phone. Such handhelds would often be larger than smartphones and would be a crossover between these and larger devices like Mobile Internet Devices or netbooks. A reference design would use one of the newer processors along with 1GB of RAM, 8GB of flash memory, and an 8.9-inch touchscreen and would be capable of playing YouTube video and making both cellular as well as VoIP calls while also having room for five USB ports, Ethernet and HDMI output. Designs can potentially shrink by stripping out unnecessary features.
The launch lineup starts with four processors. The 1.1GHz Z510 and Z510P both use a basic 400MHz system bus and carry 512KB of Level 2 cache; the stock model uses 2W of power and comes in a 13x14mm package like current Atoms, while the P uses a larger 22mm square package and 2.2W of power. The Z520 consumes 2.2W of power in return for a 1.3GHz core speed and a 533MHz bus, while the Z530 and Z530P run at a peak 1.6GHz speed and come in the same small and large chip packages as the Z510.
Intel expects the first devices based on the Z500 series to come in the spring, though it hasn't named clients. Apple has been widely rumored as developing products based on Poulsbo and its matching smaller processor (then nicknamed Silverthorne), though its long-term commitment to ARM currently rules out an Atom-based iPhone- or iPod touch-class product.
Atom processor (left) and matching new controller (right)
Small package Atom (left) versus large package (right)
Smaller system controller (left)