The ARM platform is the king of the hill when it comes to smartphone and tablet processing chips. At the 2012 Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona though, Intel challenged ARM by announcing its Medfield class Atom chips, meant for mobile phones. This April, Intel is officially getting into the smartphone business with the Xolo X900 by Indian smartphone maker Lava International.

The Long Wait is Over

Customers and technology observers can finally see how an Intel x86 chip on smartphones will perform in the real world, as Lava International releases its Xolo X900 smartphone powered by a Medfield-Class Intel Atom Z2460 microprocessor.

The Atom chip is a system-on-chip design, which means the chip itself integrates the processing, graphics and communications core. This leads to several advantages, including small size and power efficiency.

Initially introduced at MWC this February, the Xolo X900 will launch with a 1.6 GHz single-core Z2460 "Saltwell" CPU and 16 GB of internal storage. The SoC design comes with PowerVR SGX540 graphics processing unit clocked at 400 MHz, and a 32-bit dual-channel LPDDR2 memory at 1 GB.

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The Lava Xolo X900 comes with Intel Inside.

Intel promises that performance will not be compromised, even as the chip is designed for low power use. The Medfield platform supports hyperthreading, which helps bring single core processing closer to a dual-core setup. In terms of data, the Xolo X900 will support HSPA+ up to 21 Mbps. The smartphone also supports NFC for tap-to-pay and other near-field data transfers.

The phone will launch with Android 2.3 Gingerbread pre-installed, which might disappoint Android fans. However, Lava and Intel have promised an update to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich shortly thereafter. Multimedia-wise, the smartphone will come with a 4.03-inch capacitive touchscreen display at 1024x600 pixels, 8-megapixel rear camera with flash that can do 10 fps burst mode and 1080p video capture, and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera and HDMI-out.

Not Alone

Lava is not alone in playing the Intel x86 game, though. Other manufacturers will soon follow suit, with China's Lenovo launching an Intel-powered K900 smartphone in May, and the UK's Orange coming out with its own Intel-powered smartphone by June. Intel had actually started talks with South Korean manufacturer LG for the release of Intel-powered smartphones, although that deal did not materialize.

The Lava Xolo X900 will be released April 23 at the price of 22,000 rupees or about US$ 423.

The question now is whether Intel's Medfield class Atom x86 chips make a dent in ARM's dominance? Intel CEO Paul Ottelini is confident that even other major manufacturers might start considering a switch to x86, noting that top smartphone makers Apple and Samsung both run ARM smartphones, but use Intel chips on their personal computers.