Intel Attacks IoT with the Atom E3900 and A3900

Spoiling ARM’s TechCon with aplomb…


Not to be entirely outdone by ARM’s big push on IoT today Intel has announced a new generation of processors dubbed the Atom 3900 series. There are two product lines within the Atom 3900 series the A3900 and the E3900. All of these new Atom chips are based on Intel’s Goldmont CPU core and are variations of the entry-level desktop and notebook focused Apollo Lake chip. Intel tells us that these new parts are sampling today but that the automotive versions won’t ship until Q1 2017.


A is for Automotive

The A series parts are aimed at none other than the automotive market which is a target that Intel knows well at this point given that they been selling Atom chips to carmakers since 2011. The competition in this sector is pretty fierce though with both Qualcomm and Nvidia renewing their efforts to make inroads in this space.

Intel’s plan is to offer Atom A series SKUs to car makers in what it calls an automotive compute module which includes integrated power management and memory. This module is qualified for automotive use and meets the AEC-Q100 standard for durability. It comes with a seven-year warranty to boot [pun intended]. This hardware is also validated to work with Intel’s automotive software stack to help car makers reduce their time to market.

E is for Embedded

The E series parts are for general IoT applications and Intel is specifically calling out applications where sensors are collecting so much data that it makes more sense to processes the data on-site as opposed to doing it in the cloud as ideal applications for its new Atom chips. Real world examples of this would be devices like traffic cams where sending compressed video to the cloud is a waste of data quality and bandwidth where as processing the data on or near the collection device will reduce the quality loss from data movement (compression) and enable faster response times.


As far as the raw technical specifications are concerned Intel is claiming that the Atom 3900 series is 1.7 times faster than its previous generation parts in the SPECint benchmark. It’s also a 14nm chip and has Intel’s 9th generation graphics engine which bumps 3D performance up by a staggering 2.9 times compared to the last generation.

Intel is promising three SKUs in the Atom E series: the x7-E3950, the x5-E3940, and the x5-E3930 with TDPs ranging from 6.5 to 12 Watts. CPU core counts range from 2 to 4 at 1.8 to 2 Ghz and these SKUs have between 12 and 18 graphics EUs on tap. It’s also worth noting that these chips support three displays out and fifteen video streams in and can be paired with LPDDR4-2400 memory for total memory bandwidth of up to 38.4 GB/s.

TCC is for Time

Intel also wanted to highlight an interesting little feature that it calls Time Coordinated Computing (TCC) Technology. According to Intel these new Atom chips have the ability to sync their internal timing and that of connected devices to the network’s clock. This technology enables 1 micro second timing accuracy across the network which Intel believes is an important feature for applications like robotics and manufacturing. In a general sense it’s easy to see how keeping actions in lock step could be a important hardware feature of an IoT solution.

Intel’s Atom A3900 and E3900 series chips are no doubt an interesting development for IoT vendors. Despite publicly ending its phone and tablet ambitions it’s clear that Intel is still continuing to invest in the Internet of Things. Outside of the server market IoT is perhaps Intel’s best avenue for long-term growth.S|A

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Thomas Ryan is a freelance technology writer and photographer from Seattle, living in Austin. You can also find his work on SemiAccurate and PCWorld. He has a BA in Geography from the University of Washington with a minor in Urban Design and Planning and specializes in geospatial data science. If you have a hardware performance question or an interesting data set Thomas has you covered.