|Inside the Lava Xolo – Intel Medfield smartphone
We can hear it now – the “Intel Inside” clarion call, long associated with the brand. Da doo da doooo (sound onomatopoeia trademark Intel).
Xolo is leveraging the good Intel name to help market this phone by including the Intel branding on both the box and phone (we don’t know for sure, but it seems likely that Intel supports this by providing marketing $$$).
It is indeed exciting times for those who follow the progress of the smartphone. Intel has brought their long standing leadership in the desktop and server microprocessor market to the applications processor market with the first seen design win in the Lava X900.
In a market where the ARM vendors have been successful in creating brand differentiation by adding unique and powerful features to their chips (such as NVIDIA’s focus on gaming or Qualcomm’s focus on chipset and overall system and network performance), will “Intel Inside” be a compelling message for buyers in this space?
Intel touts being able to leverage their significant lead in process technology to deliver the power savings, while their architecture can deliver the goods in performance. From analyzing their technology, over the last few years in particular, we tend to agree that they have a good fighting chance.
(marketing shot at right from Lava’s website)
|Taking off the back cover
With the back off, we were met with a clean looking interior that in some ways reminded us of Apple devices. What we mean by this is that the interior that nobody ever sees is clean and uncluttered, and almost . . . designed. It was as though they wanted to make sure the phone was wearing clean underwear for when it’s outer clothes were removed during the teardown treatment. Once the circuit board was exposed, we see a large shield covering much of the silicon, but in a somewhat organized way. Even the battery sported a reasonably clean look in delivering its 3.7 V 5.4 Wh performance.
|The main circuit board
The majority of the functional silicon sits at the bottom of the board under the shielded portion. The images at the right are enlargeable for those who wish to navigate the device layout in more detail. Below, you will see zoomed-in shots of specific devices.
If you were thinking that Intel’s main strength is in their processing technology, then you are not considering that Intel has taken important steps in building chipset solutions. They don’t market them with the same strength of, say a Qualcomm, but the potential is there to deliver a fairly complete phone solution. We see what we believe to be the fruits of this in the Lava Xolo, with an Intel-branded baseband processor (9811) as well as a couple of devices from Infineon (with nondescript package markings 1.3 and 15A). Not really a well-defined chipset so to speak, but on its way to becoming one.
|Introducing the Medfield (aka Penwell) chip
Sitting right under the Elpida DRAM die in a typical PoP fashion is the Intel Q152C489 – aka Medfield. This is the Intel Atom Z 2460, fabbed in their 32 nm SoC process, running at 1.6 Ghz. Die markings at right show the Penwell 2009 code. The package markings indicate (we believe) a manufacture date of “week 52, 2011″, which means that they were shipping these chips to manufacturers last year (just in time for CES!).
This chip features an Intel graphics core and Intel Burst Performance technology, so when you are going for that kill shot in the latest smartphone game, you don’t need to worry about stuttering. It also features, more practically, 1080p video capabilities and includes on-board image processing for the 8 Mp camera phone. We’re including Intel’s block layout diagram for your interest, but physical die block dimensions are reserved for those ordering Functional Analysis Reports.
This is not a true apples-to-apples comparison, but this Penwell 32 nm die measures 7.97 mm x 7.96 mm versus the Tegra 3 40 nm we looked at, measuring 9.58 mm x 8.55 mm, or the more recent Qualcomm MSM8960 measuring 9.9 mm x 8.9 mm.
So, with this latest chip, we see three significant advantages for Intel in entering this market:
1) Intel co-marketing dollars likely supplied to help companies using their chips
2) The makings of an Intel chipset
3) A powerful processor with a competitive die size that is among the top performing, according to web reviews
You don’t get a lot of information from a top metal die photo, but for those interested, we have made one free in the Chipworks Store (registration required).
|Texas Instruments scores big
As we are used to seeing from the world’s largest analog company, we have a few critical design wins in this phone, including the Texas Instruments WL1283C WiLink 7.0 chip delivering WLAN, GPS, Bluetooth (and BLe), AND, and FM. We found it curious to have a SiRF chip and a WiLink 7.0 in here, so it seems that not all the functionality of the WL1283 are being employed. For those interested, we recorded a video of some of the interesting circuits in the Bluetooth block.
- Texas Instruments 95031B3 power management IC
|Other chips on board
Carrying the tradition of a board layout that is organized and almost designed for a public teardown, we have a grouping of inertial sensors including:
- InvenSense gyroscope (MPU3050)
- Bosch accelerometer (package markings C3H)
- Honeywell compass (L883)
Rounding out the sensing capabilities, we find the SiRF GSD-4T 9600 GPS chip.
For near-field communications, the phone employs the market leading NXP PN544 chip. This chip contains the necessary rf and processor capabilities to receive the signals and handle the security encryption. Now that ARM is moving encryption on board the applications processor, the market for this type of device may be limited to just the NFC radio only.
|Other chips on board – part 2
The ubiquitous (and top performing) Atmel MXT224 provides the touch screen control.
We did note a good set of design wins for RF Micro Devices, in addition to some Murata devices in the AFE:
- RF Micro Devices RF6261 RF amplifier
- RF Micro Devices 6561 power management IC
- RF Micro Devices RF6590 power management IC
And finally, the 16 GB flash memory is courtesy of the Toshiba THGBM4G7D2GBAIE, while the 8 Gb lower power DRAM is provided by the Elpida B806482PB – the latter being a device we have seen in quite a few smartphones and tablets.
For those tracking the higher volume design wins (for example those licensing IP) we’ll delve into a little more detail on the front end. The device labeled “1CR 20, 1.3” is an Infineon SP5T / SP3T (that we have seen before in the Samsung S II i9100) main antenna switch with one of its pins connected directly to the phone’s main antenna and feeding into the Murata filter banks and the Infineon PMB5712 RF transceiver. The device marked “1SA 1130” is a diversity switch given that the phone has a clearly labeled diversity antenna attached to the external case. The 15A is an Infineon Single Pole 5 Throw (SP5T) antenna switch also found in the Apple iPhone 4S.
Reports on devices cataloged (or related to) those found in the Lava Xolo Smartphone