Intel's new Atom chips bring 4K video to VR headsets, robots

Intel's new Atom T5500 and 5700 chips -- codenamed Broxton -- have Gen9 integrated graphics processors

In 2009, Apple CEO Tim Cook memorably trashed Atom-based netbooks for being "junky" hardware that underperformed. Intel's Atom chips have come a long way since, with the latest generation code-named Broxton boasting the most impressive improvements.

The new Atom T5500 and 5700 chips have features found in low-end PC processors, but the chips are instead targeted at robots, drones, wearables, and smart home devices.

A standout feature is 4K decoding and encoding capabilities, which could allow the chips to be used in virtual reality and augmented reality headsets.

Intel showed smart glasses, a bartending robot, and a smart motorcycle helmet with the Broxton chips at the Intel Developer Forum this week. Intel also said the chips could be used be in storage or media servers.

Earlier this year, Intel abruptly discontinued Atom chips for smartphones. At the time, Intel said it would stop developing Broxton chips, but the company appears to have changed its mind.

The target markets for Broxton chips aligns with the company's focus on the growing markets of virtual reality and the internet of things. Intel is trying to position Atom chips for devices outside of PCs, which have seen shipments fall.

But over the last few months, Intel has softened its stance on how it could use Atom chips. Broxton could be used in specialized enterprise tablets, and there's a remote possibility that device makers will use the new Atom chips in low-end or thumb stick-sized PCs.

The new Atom chips will support Windows 10 desktop, Windows 10 IoT Core, Linux, Android, and the VxWorks real-time OS.

You can get the new Atom chip through Intel's latest Joule developer board, which like Raspberry Pi 3, is targeted at people looking to build devices. The US$369 Joule 570x has a 1.7GHz Atom T5700 processor, 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, 16GB of storage, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi.

The Joule could be an expensive, albeit excellent, media server with support for 4K and the latest Wi-Fi technology.

The T5500 and T5700 chips are based on Intel's latest Goldmont architecture, which will also be in upcoming Celeron and Pentium chips code-named Apollo Lake. The chips draw only six to 12 watts of power.

The 4K video capabilities come thanks to an improved Gen9 integrated graphics processor, which is also in Intel's current batch of chips based on the Skylake architecture. The chips can support up to three 4K DisplayPort and HDMI displays at a 60Hz refresh rate.

Visual computing is becoming important, especially with robots, drones, and self-driving cars relying on cameras for motion tracking and gesture and image recognition. The Atom chips have a next-generation image processing engine that speeds up visual computing.

There is also a 50 to 80 percent improvement in memory bandwidth compared to the previous Atom chip, based on the Silvermont architecture released in 2015, according to Intel. There is also support for error correction, which was previously available only on Atom server chips.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Agam Shah

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?