Intel Atom E3800 SoCs improve power, performance for SFF designs

3Improvements to the Intel Atom family of processors have yielded a new class of Systems-on-Chip (SoCs) that provide a range of core, clock speed, and thermal envelope options in a scalable package for small form factor developers. Max Domeika, Embedded Software Technologist, Developer Products Division, Intel Corporation, reviews some of the features and benefits of the new SoCs, as well as some of the tools available to aid in processor migration. Edited excerpts follow.

SFF: What are the major improvements on the Intel Atom E3800 Series processors (formerly known as “Bay Trail”), and what sets them apart from previous versions of Atom?

DOMEIKA: The Intel Atom processor E3800 product family contains numerous improvements over previous generations of Intel Atom processors. Three significant improvement areas are in integration, performance, and power utilization. The processor is a single-die SoC design, compared to previous designs comprising two chips, one for the CPU and one for the chipset. The Intel Atom processor E3800 SoC family comprises a CPU, GPU, I/O interfaces, security, and media engines, which provide benefits in terms of reducing Bill-Of-Materials (BOM) costs and general power and performance improvements (Figure 1).

Figure 1: The Intel Atom processor E3800 product family is the first generation of Atom processors to utilize a single-die System-on-Chip (SoC) design, which precludes an additional chipset. Depicted here is a general representation of the family’s hardware features.
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Specific performance improvements result from the CPU design featuring a superscalar out-of-order instruction execution unit, which enables independent instructions to execute when their particular dependencies have been satisfied. This is compared to the previous generation of Intel Atom processors that featured an in-order core; instructions that were stalled awaiting a dependency also stalled other independent instructions. The graphics core has also been enhanced to increase performance for next-generation 3D applications, as well as deliver a seamless visual experience with built-in hardware media acceleration.

The third improvement area is in terms of power utilization. The increased level of integration and process size reduction (22 nm) enable lower power execution. Developers have their choice of a range of Intel Atom processor E3800 SoCs with different balances between raw performance and low power utilization.

SFF: What benefits do the Intel Atom E3800 Series SoCs bring to developers of small form factor boards and systems?

DOMEIKA: Several models of the Intel Atom processor E3800 SoC family are available with a Thermal Design Power (TDP) ranging from 5 W for the Intel Atom processor E3815 to 10 W for the Intel Atom processor E3845 (Table 1). If a developer desires utmost performance, they could choose to employ the Intel Atom processor E3845, featuring four processor cores, a clock speed of 1.91 GHz, 2 MB L2 cache, and a TDP rating of 10 W. If low power is of utmost consideration, the single processor core Intel Atom processor E3815 can be employed.

Table 1: The Intel Atom processor E3800 product family range from single to quad-core SoCs with a variety of TDP envelope and clock speed options for small form factor embedded designs.
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The Intel Atom processor E3800 SoC family is well suited for embedded applications in many areas, such as digital signage, multifunction printers, industrial controllers, automotive infotainment, digital security, energy controllers, retail, and military and aerospace systems. The unique combination of low power, high performance, and industrial temperature range enable usages in these segments.

SFF: What, if anything, should developers migrating to an Intel Atom E3800 processor architecture be aware of? Are there any complications or challenges they will face?

DOMEIKA: One of the benefits of Intel architecture is backwards compatibility, so applications developed for previous Intel Atom processors will function well on the current generation. Oftentimes, the application can execute even more efficiently without change. There are cases where applications will need to be retuned for the new processor or an increased number of processor cores. Fortunately, there are advanced optimization and analysis tools such as the Intel VTune Amplifier XE to assist (see Sidebar 1). 

SFF: What’s next for the Intel Atom processors?

DOMEIKA: Performance and power utilization will benefit as technology moves forward. Intel is continuing to add higher levels of integration, higher performing processor and graphics cores, and new capabilities to enable next-generation applications. 

Sidebar 1
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Max Domeika is an embedded software technologist in the Developer Products Division at Intel, creating tools targeting the Intel architecture market. Max currently provides embedded tools consulting for customers migrating to Intel architecture. In addition, he sets strategy and product plans for future embedded tools. Max earned a BS in Computer Science from the University of Puget Sound, an MS in Computer Science from Clemson University, and an MS in Management in Science & Technology from Oregon Graduate Institute. Max is the author of Software Development for Embedded Multi-core Systems from Elsevier. In 2008, Max was awarded an Intel Achievement Award for innovative compiler technology that aids in architecture migrations.

Intel Corporation