Android Prototypes With Intel Chips Shown Off, May Come Early Next Year

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MIT’s Technology Review has gotten some hands-on time with smartphone and tablet prototypes using Intel’s Medfield SoC running Android Gingerbread and Ice Cream Sandwich, respectively.

Intel’s chips are based on the x86 architecture, as most other desktop CPUs, whereas virtually all smartphones and tablets use chips based on the ARM architecture, like Qualcomm’s Snapdragon or Nvidia’s Tegra. There have been two reason for this: mobile operating systems like Android were only compatible with ARM, and x86 CPUs consumed too much power. Both issues have been rectified, however, with Google announcing that all future Android versions would be x86-compatible at the IDF back in September, and Intel readying its Medfield SoC, which remedies the power consumption issues by combining all chips in one package.

Technology Review has found the Intel prototypes, reference designs that are designed to show off a platform to manufacturers, to be very smooth, “on par with the latest iPhone and Android handsets”, with the tablet running Ice Cream Sandwich “noticeably nicer to use than older tablets based on the abandoned Honeycomb”. Furthermore, Intel is said to have found its Medfield prototype to be offering “faster browsing and graphics performance and lower power consumption” than three other leading smartphones, according to internal tests.

As for consumer availability, Stephen Smith, VP of Intel’s architecture group, expects “products based on these to be announced in the first half of 2012″, hinting at product announcements at the CES in January.


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