In 2013, Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) launched a product family known as Atom E3800 based on a platform code-named Bay Trail-I. According to Intel, these products are aimed at "intelligent systems." In Intel's product brief for the processor family, the company said these chips are targeted at applications such as portable medical devices, in-vehicle infotainment systems, interactive kiosks, and more.
Thanks to a leak from website BenchLife, we now have some information about Intel's next-generation Atom chip for these market segments, code-named Apollo Lake-I. Let's look at the improvements Intel is bringing to the table with this family of chips.
Massive memory bandwidth and graphics boost
The prior-generation Bay Trail-I chips featured just four execution units of Intel's Gen. 7 graphics architecture. This was a big boost from prior Atom chips in this market segment, but they were hardly graphics powerhouses.
With Apollo Lake-I, Intel is delivering a two-generation jump in graphics architecture to the company's Gen. 9 graphics architecture. On top of that, Intel is beefing up the graphics core count from four in Bay Trail-I to a whopping 18 in Apollo Lake-I.
To support the significant increase in graphics performance, Intel is also reportedly significantly beefing up the memory bandwidth of the system-on-chip (necessary to "feed" the system-on-chip). The Bay Trail-I offered memory bandwidth of approximately 21.33 GB/second (two channels of DDR3L 1333 ).
According to the leaked slide, the Apollo Lake-I will support either two 64-bit channels of DDR3L (it's not clear at what speeds, though) or four 32-bit channels of more advanced LPDDR4. The site said the memory controller supports LPDDR4 at 3200 MT/second, which -- if my math is correct -- yields memory bandwidth to the tune of 51.2 GB/second.
That's a lot of bandwidth.
A move to Intel's new Goldmont CPU cores
According to the leak, the Apollo Lake-I system-on-chip will feature Intel's new Goldmont Atom CPU cores. Goldmont should be a substantial improvement upon the Silvermont core that is used in the Bay Trail-I family of chips since it is a "tock" in Intel's tick/tock methodology.
Not much is publicly known about the Goldmont CPU core, and it doesn't appear the company will present details of the core at its upcoming Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco. I believe it will deliver a significant performance boost from the prior-generation Silvermont core, though, given how fiercely competitive the smartphone and tablet markets (the "home" markets for this CPU core) are.
Release date and business impact
BenchLife said Apollo Lake-I will launch in May 2016. BenchLife previously reported that the Apollo Lake variant for low-cost PCs would launch at about that same time, so it seems May is when Apollo Lake chips will roll out in earnest.
I suspect these new chips should help Intel further grow its already rapidly rising Internet of Things business, as the substantially better performance in both graphics and computing should be quite attractive to potential customers.
It only gets better from here
Although this new Apollo Lake-I chip looks good, I think the best is yet to come. In its presentation regarding the acquisition of FPGA maker Altera (UNKNOWN:ALTR.DL), Intel discussed integrating FPGAs with future Atom products in order to deliver more robust solutions for the Internet of Things.
All told, Intel believes integrating FPGAs with processors opens up an $11 billion market within the Internet of Things. It will be interesting to see how much of that market Intel can actually capture over the next five years or so.