Intel unveils Queensbay family of Atom microprocessors

The first chip, code-named Tunnel Creek, is due out in fourth quarter of this year

Intel on Wednesday announced a line of microprocessors for the embedded processor market aimed at a range of products, from digital signs and electronic car dashboard systems to digital cash registers, IP phones and digital blackjack machines.

The latest line of chips was unveiled at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in Beijing and is part of the company's popular Atom architecture, which is used in small devices such as netbooks and mobile Internet devices.

But this new family, called Queensbay, has been tweaked to be embedded inside devices that require it to operate for years. Intel showed off a car dashboard/entertainment system from Delphi Automotive, a car entertainment/information display system from Chinese maker Rongcheng HawTai Automobile, as well as a device aimed at helping people save electricity at home.

The first member of the Queensbay family is due out in the fourth quarter, a chip code-named Tunnel Creek. It will come in three flavors, 600MHz, 1.1GHz and 1.3GHz, and is a small package with most of the functions traditionally in the north and south bridge chipset all packed onto the same chip as the processor.

The main chip includes the processor; memory controller for 667MHz and 800MHz DDR2 (double data rate, second generation DRAM); a 3D graphics engine; high definition capable video decoder and video encoding engine as well as display controller with support for an additional display; a legacy peripheral controller; and a high-definition audio controller, all on one piece of silicon.

Tunnel Creek is 46 percent smaller than Menlow, Intel's previous chip package for the embedded market.

The new chip also includes PCI Express, the latest upgrade to PCI, which was vital to connect add-on cards such as video, audio and graphics to a PC's motherboard. PCI Express is speedier, works with more OSes and allows more add-ons. Some people have noted the importance of Intel using PCIe in a family of Atom chips because it's a widely used standard, and because Intel will not use PCIe in the new generation Atom processors aimed at netbooks, called Moorestown, which are due out in June.

"We will carry [PCI Express] in future generations as well," said Pranav Mehta, a senior principal engineer at Intel, said during a speech at IDF.

Intel displayed an IP Media phone, a handset and touchscreen display with an embedded processor that Mehta said could be used as a complete home management system. The system used Intel's MeeGo OS, making it a prime target for Intel's AppUp Center, a catalog of applications people can use on a variety of devices that run on Atom microprocessors. Applications for cars and a range of other devices may one day end up in the AppUp Center.

But Mehta said the embedded market is different in that some companies may want to build their own app stores. That's not the way Intel is using its AppUp Center in netbooks, smartphones and other computing devices. The company has vowed to control the catalog, including validation of apps, all billing and transactions.

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