Intel Unveils 64-Bit Atom Chips, Inks Deals With Asus, Dell, Lenovo And Foxconn

Intel stepped up its efforts in the mobile chip market Monday, unveiling 64-bit Atom processors and touting agreements with Asus, Dell, Lenovo and Foxconn to use its chips in upcoming mobile gear.

At the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona, Intel debuted its 64-bit Intel Atom processor Z3480 (code-named Merrifield) for smartphones and tablets along with its 64-bit quad-core Atom processor for Android mobile devices (code-named Moorefield).

The Merrifield chip, according to Intel, allows mobile devices to browse the Web 16 percent faster than the iPhone 5s. Intel also claims the chip is twice as fast as Qualcomm's 800 processor that is used in the Samsung Galaxy S4. According to Intel, the Merrifield processor delivered 19.2 hours of battery life on reference design handsets, compared with 14.5 hours for the Galaxy S4.

Related: Mobile World Congress: What To Expect

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The big takeaway, according to Nathan Brookwood, an analyst at Insight 64, is that true 64-bit chip technology is enabling developers to add 4 GB to 8 GB of DRAM to both Android and Windows platforms. He said it breaks the 2-GB DRAM limit that device makers currently face and cracks open the door for application makers to offer more memory-intensive applications such as advanced video editing, big data analytics and voice recognition.

Devices based on Intel's quad-core 64-bit Moorefield 2.3GHz chip design are expected to roll out in the second half of 2013, according to Intel. The Moorefield chips, Intel said, have enhanced GPU support for faster memory and, most importantly, are optimized for Intel's XMM 7260 LTE platform, also unveiled Monday.

At its press conference at Mobile World Congress, Intel said it was shooting to be the No. 2 market-share leader in LTE chips by the end of 2014. Intel also hinted that more LTE customers would be revealed later this year when it introduces an "LTE-Advanced" platform. Later this year, Intel also is planning to release a chip, code-named Sofia, with 3G radio and then a 4G LTE version of Sofia in the first quarter of 2015.

Intel's move to mobile remains the company's biggest challenge and its greatest opportunity. Competitors Qualcomm and Samsung, which use ARM-based chips, account for most of the mobile market.

"Intel's Merrifield and Moorefield represent a very competitive offering to rivals like Qualcomm. There is no doubt that Intel is playing catch-up. But if it can make some headway with important new partnerships with Lenovo and Foxconn, it could soon gain ground in its battle for mobile chip market share," Brookwood said.

For its part, Lenovo said it would introduce Intel-based mobile devices in 2014. Dell said it would be expanding the range of Windows and Android mobile devices using the new Intel Atom processors. Asus said it will bring a range of Intel-based smartphones and tablets to market this year, and Foxconn said it will help build affordable Intel-based Android tablets.