Intels Berryville Atom CE processors revealed

By the end of this quarter, or early next quarter Intel should be unveiling its next generation of Atom CE processors, currently codenamed Berryville. Although as amusing as the code name might be, Intel has gone through great lengths to make Berryville a real contender in the consumer electronics market space and maybe even giving some high-end ARM solutions a run for their money.

By the end of this quarter, or early next quarter Intel should be unveiling its next generation of Atom CE processors, currently codenamed Berryville. Although as amusing as the code name might be, Intel has gone through great lengths to make Berryville a real contender in the consumer electronics market space and maybe even giving some high-end ARM solutions a run for their money.

We've already given you a run-down of Intel's plans for Tizen, its co-operation with Samsung which merged what was left of MeeGo after Nokia pulled out and Samsung's in-house Linux OS Bada. Intel clearly wants Tizen to succeed MeeGo as its OS for Smart TVs and this is where Berryville comes into play. Intel might have lost its partnership with Google, but looking at Intel's upcoming Atom CE processors, we'd say the company is planning to bring the game to the ARM partners.

As mentioned, the first Berryville processors should arrive within the next few months and the company is planning to launch at least seven models, although not all are expected to launch at the same time and some are only available for certain partners. All of the Berryville Atom CE processors will be dual core with Hyperthreading, in other words, all of them can handle up to four threads. This suggests that they're very similar to Intel's Cedar Trail processors and the graphics clock speed for the 3D graphics at 400MHz further makes us think Intel has based Berryville on Cedar Trail. Clarification: Please note that Berryville is an SoC and as such isn't identical to Cedar Trail, it's just based on the same CPU and graphics core.

The most basic version will be known as the CE5310 or CE5320 and it'll be a basic 1.2GHz with HDMI output. Moving up we have the CE5343, the only other part that lacks hardware video encoding despite having HDMI input, but the higher 1.8GHz clock speed might help when it comes to encoding video. This is also the first Atom CE part with Intel PQE, where PQE stands for Picture Quality Engine, which enables Intel's “Joint Colour Correction and Enhancement IP” which is some kind of software/hardware video enhancer.

The remaining five or so models all feature a built in HD resolution H.264 hardware video encoder and Intel will be offering a separate SDK here to allow its partners to take advantage of its features. Having a built in hardware video encoder also means CPU's with slower clock speeds can handle video encoding with a breeze, as shown by so many ARM processors. As such, we start with the Atom CE5328, yet another 1.2GHz part, although here we have both hardware video encoding and support for Intel PQE. This is followed by its 1.8GHz sibling, the CE5348. Then we have a typical Intel oddity, the CE5315 which is a 1.2GHz part with the hardware video encoder, but no support for PQE.

The final two models, the 1.2GHz CE5318 and the 1.8GHz CE5338 are both intended for integration into Smart TVs and as such lack HDMI input and have LVDS connectivity instead. Both models feature the hardware video encoder and Intel PQE and will only be offered to manufacturers of television sets.

Common features among all SKUs include a pair of SATA ports, three USB ports and a pair of PCI Express lanes as well as a eMMC 4.4 NAND flash interface. Intel has taken steps to reduce BOM (Build of Materials) cost, so presumably devices based on Intel's CE5300 family should be more affordable than those based on the CE4x00 family, despite more functionality having been added. The first models to arrive should be the CE5310/5320, the CE5315 and the CE5328, which means that the faster 1.8GHz parts will be launched at a later date, presumably sometime in Q3.

Intel is going to have to be very cost competitive with Berryville if the company is going to be able to compete with the likes of Marvell's new Armada 1500 SoC which is what we'll see in the second generation of Google TV boxes. The overall feature set in terms of what the consumers are concerned is very similar and estimated pricing mentioned at CES for the second generation Google TV boxes was said to be US$99. 2012 could turn out to be a very interesting year for the Smart TV, although we've already seen other competitive solutions like Roku's MHL streaming stick to mention but one competing low-cost solution. There's no doubt that Intel has a tough fight on its hands, but the company does have the money and resources to stick it out, but the real question is if Tizen will prove to be popular with Intel's potential hardware partners or not.