Intel Needs to Pull In Broxton

Qualcomm unleashes another monstrous Snapdragon, requiring Intel to pull in its next smartphone chip, Broxton, if it is to make meaningful headway.

Apr 7, 2014 at 9:34PM

On April 7, Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), the unequivocal leader in mobile chips, announced the details of its next-generation Snapdragon 810 phone/tablet processor. The chip is quite impressive, featuring four ARM Holdings (NASDAQ:ARMH) Cortex A57/A53 cores in a big.LITTLE configuration, a significantly beefed-up graphics processor, improved memory interface, and a whole host of other improvements across the board. However, despite how nice this part looks on paper, Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) now has a pretty interesting opportunity to strike.

Qualcomm moves to TSMC 20-SoC for 2015
As anybody who follows the processor market knows, new and improved transistor technologies are the single biggest drivers of dramatically improved performance per watt. Yes, you can do a lot with a superior architecture, but at the end of the day you end up maxing out what you can do on a given technology and need to advance.


Qualcomm's Snapdragon 801 really pushes TSMC's 28-nanometer HPm process. Source: Qualcomm.

Now, in moving from Taiwan Semiconductor's (NYSE:TSM) 28HPm to its 20-SoC process, Qualcomm gains about a 1.9-times increase in transistor density (i.e., Qualcomm can pack roughly twice as many transistors into the same space). This, combined with lower-power transistors, allows Qualcomm to offer a meaningfully higher-performing chip in roughly the same power envelope with the Snapdragon 810 compared with its prior-generation Snapdragon 801/805 products.

Intel will be on its 14-nanometer FinFET process by the end of 2014
While there has been a lot of hoopla surrounding the delay of about a quarter of Intel's 14-nanometer FinFET process for both high-performance CPU applications and the low-power SoC, the fact of the matter is that Intel is on track to go into high-volume production on these products this year. Indeed, Broadwell (the PC/Ultrabook product) is in production now, and there are even a bunch of samples of the first 14-nanometer Atom known as Cherry Trail being shipped around as we speak.

The first 14-nanometer product, Broadwell, is likely to start showing up in PCs and 1-socket servers by the end of the year. The first 14-nanometer mobile product, Cherry Trail, is likely to find its way into a handful of devices by the end of 2014, with broader availability during the first half of 2015. This suggests, particularly as Qualcomm is using the ARM Cortex A57 core, that Intel should have very little trouble offering superior performance at lower power consumption -- at least with respect to CPU/GPU performance in tablets.

What about phones?
Things get a little murkier when we talk about phones. Cherry Trail is a product that is aimed principally at tablets and above, so it looks as though Intel will have the 22-nanometer Silvermont-based Moorefield to compete for the first half of 2015. This will not be able to compete with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 810 on performance/features -- that's the job of Intel's Broxton.

Missing Chip

Intel's roadmap outlining Broxton. Source: Intel. 

Broxton, unlike Cherry Trail, is designed to work in both tablets and phones. It also features a next-generation CPU core known as Goldmont as well as Intel's in-house Gen. 9 GPU. At its investor meeting back in November, Intel's management was quite bullish on this part and specifically referred to it as a design targeted at "Hero Devices." The rub, though, is that silicon availability will be in "mid-2015."

Mid-2015 isn't enough for phones
With Intel using Moorefield to fight in the performance/mainstream part of the smartphone market during 1H 2015, and with Intel's SoFIA LTE (quad core Silvermont built on TSMC's 28-nanometer process) fighting in the value/entry segment, the company doesn't really have an answer to Snapdragon 810 until Broxton for phones.

Screen Shot

Silvermont is expected to hold the line in phones during 2014 and most of 2015. Source: Intel. 

The problem with "mid-2015" is that the "hero devices" that Intel covets are typically shown off at Mobile World Congress (in February) with availability in late Q1/early Q2. If silicon is not available until, say, June, then devices realistically won't hit the market until September. Unfortunately, this means that unless the handset vendors dramatically change their schedules, this means that Broxton "misses it by that much" for phones. It should do quite well in tablets, though.

Intel needs to pull in Broxton ... or bring Cherry Trail to phones
It should be top priority for the top brass at Intel to accelerate the time to market for Broxton as quickly as possible. Alternatively, Intel could bring the Cherry Trail platform to smartphones (where it would have more than enough performance to compete with Snapdragon 810) and then the company could stand to win some meaningful "phablet" designs for 2015.


Cherry Trail VMS ("value and mainstream") is on track for late Q4 2014. Source: VR-Zone. 

However, given that the schedule for Broxton is already quite aggressive, given its proximity to Cherry Trail's launch, it may be unreasonable to expect a further pull-in. These things just take time, and Qualcomm's use of the stock ARM A57/A53 cores in Snapdragon 810 shows that this isn't easy for anybody. It may not be until 2016 (10-nanometer generation) that Intel has a meaningful advantage in mobile, and if Intel doesn't get the timing right, Broxton may not be the winner that Intel hopes. 

The biggest thing to come out of Silicon Valley in years
If you're sick of seeing Intel miss the boat and you wish you'd instead gotten in on Apple's monster growth story following the releases of iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad, just wait until you see this. One hundred of Apple's top engineers are busy building one in a secret lab. And an ABI Research report predicts 485 million of them could be sold over the next decade. But you can invest in it right now, for just a fraction of the price of Apple stock. Click here to get the full story in this eye-opening new report.

Ashraf Eassa owns shares of Intel. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Intel and owns shares of Apple, Intel, and Qualcomm. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

1 Key Step to Get Rich

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better. Whether that’s helping people overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we can help.

Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

To be perfectly clear, this is not a get-rich action that my Foolish colleagues and I came up with. But we wouldn't argue with the approach.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich" rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

"The Motley Fool aims to build a strong investment community, which it does by providing a variety of resources: the website, books, a newspaper column, a radio [show], and [newsletters]," wrote (the clearly insightful and talented) money reporter Kathleen Elkins. "This site has something for every type of investor, from basic lessons for beginners to investing commentary on mutual funds, stock sectors, and value for the more advanced."

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better, so it's nice to receive that kind of recognition. It lets us know we're doing our job.

Whether that's helping the entirely uninitiated overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we want to provide our readers with a boost to the next step on their journey to financial independence.

Articles and beyond

As Business Insider wrote, there are a number of resources available from the Fool for investors of all levels and styles.

In addition to the dozens of free articles we publish every day on our website, I want to highlight two must-see spots in your tour of

For the beginning investor

Investing can seem like a Big Deal to those who have yet to buy their first stock. Many investment professionals try to infuse the conversation with jargon in order to deter individual investors from tackling it on their own (and to justify their often sky-high fees).

But the individual investor can beat the market. The real secret to investing is that it doesn't take tons of money, endless hours, or super-secret formulas that only experts possess.

That's why we created a best-selling guide that walks investors-to-be through everything they need to know to get started. And because we're so dedicated to our mission, we've made that available for free.

If you're just starting out (or want to help out someone who is), go to, drop in your email address, and you'll be able to instantly access the quick-read guide ... for free.

For the listener

Whether it's on the stationary exercise bike or during my daily commute, I spend a lot of time going nowhere. But I've found a way to make that time benefit me.

The Motley Fool offers five podcasts that I refer to as "binge-worthy financial information."

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. It's also featured on several dozen radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable ... and I don't say that simply because the hosts all sit within a Nerf-gun shot of my desk. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers contain timeless advice, so you might want to go back to the beginning with those. The other three take their cues from the market, so you'll want to listen to the most recent first. All are available at

But wait, there's more

The book and the podcasts – both free ... both awesome – also come with an ongoing benefit. If you download the book, or if you enter your email address in the magical box at the podcasts page, you'll get ongoing market coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Investor Insights is valuable and enjoyable coverage of everything from macroeconomic events to investing strategies to our analyst's travels around the world to find the next big thing. Also free.

Get the book. Listen to a podcast. Sign up for Investor Insights. I'm not saying that any of those things will make you rich ... but Business Insider seems to think so.

Compare Brokers