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March 25, 2023

Intel Brings the Best of Mobile Processors to Socketed Systems

We recently caught up with Ben Cope and David Tay from Intel’s Network and Edge Group to dig a little more into a new series of processors that have been designed for embedded systems and device that want to be able to support 8K – particularly ‘smart’ displays such as interactive flat panels (IFPs), kiosks and digital signage.

The 12th Gen Intel® Core™ processor is  the current generation of Intel’s PC chips, which Toms Hardware described as ‘regain(ing) the uncontested performance lead’. The new 12th Gen Intel Core processors for IoT processors have been optimised for smart applications and can support up to four 4K/UltraHD displays or a single 8K display. The new chips are described as ‘bringing mobile performance to socketed systems’.  We wanted to dig into what this means.

Mobile Dominates the PC Market

The PC market volume is, these days, dominated by notebooks and mobile devices. These devices, for the sake of reliability and to achieve the smallest packaging, use chips that are soldered onto the main board. However, soldering in the chip ensures that the mainboard has to use that specific processor, meaning an early commitment to a particular level of performance and a big investment in inventory when the board is assembled. However, for the kind of smart displays this family is aimed at, it’s much better to integrate the processor as late as possible, avoiding high value inventory and allowing much more flexibility in offering a range of performance, based on similar motherboards, but with different processors and memory.

Mobile vs Desktop

The difference between mobile and desktop processors is not just in the packaging. A desktop system can easily use a discrete GPU if a higher level of graphics performance is needed than can be achieved with integrated graphics. Mobile PCs can use discrete GPUs, too, but that really is only for specialist professional applications and dedicated gamers. Trying to deliver as wide a range of performance as possible in a single chip means that a higher level of integrated graphics (for example, having more graphics cores) is popular in mobile processors. The new 12th Gen Intel Core processors for IoT series brings this higher level of integrated graphics to socketed chips.

The new 12th Gen Intel Core processors also combine lower performance cores for low power, with higher performance cores, although this is less important in smart displays than in mobile devices.

To make life easier for companies that are interested in developing using the PS family of chips, Intel is in the final stages of creating the 12th Gen Intel Core processors reference design based on a miniITX form factor – which is a very popular architecture in the kiosk market. Kiosks are a particularly demanding application because of the need to have really snappy and responsive application performance and because kiosks are increasingly using AI and biometrics to make them easier to use. Both of these technologies tend to be intensive in their use of processor resources. Intel emphasized to us that the integrated GPUs really assist AI performance. The better performing GPUs also make 8K support perform better.

Stability for Industrial Components

SoCs are ‘almost free’ these days because of the high volume that are used in smart TVs and other devices. However, they are subject to CE design lifecycles which means that designs are often changed, and availability can be limited after initial production. Further, they tend to be optimized for content display rather than app performance, where the Intel X80 architecture tends to shine. In contrast to the limited lifetimes of SoCs, Intel told us that its chips that are intended for industrial use can be available for up to 15 years, with long term service and stability. They also can be remotely managed, which again is ideal for digital signage and kiosks.

Intel will be attending the BETT 2023 show in London at the end of March. That’s one of the most important education technology events in Europe and an event that typically sees a lot of players in the interactive flat panel market. We’re hoping to get along and see some units. In the last couple of years at the BETT, supply chain issues have been the most important topic among the product managers of firms supplying IFPs, so Intel’s moves to improve supply chain management should be welcome.

Part of a Portfolio

The new chips are part of a portfolio of Intel chips that are optimized for 8K use. Another recent announcement is of the fourth generation of Xeon processors for high end server applications including 8K encoding.  That’s a topic we covered when we spoke with Spin Digital about the challenges of live encoding of 8K content using the most advanced VVC codec.

Intel is a member of the 8K Association.

 [TD1]Mobile Processors

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