Intel Atom vs TI OMAP3

Posted by Cliff Brake on 2009-01-22 | 5 Comments to Read

As we look at new projects, both the Intel Atom and the TI OMAP3 processors generate considerable interest.  As we have already shown, the OMAP3 does offer a considerable performance improvement over earlier generations of ARM CPUs.  The following video I found on YouTube shows a similar comparison of a OMAP3 and Atom systems rendering web pages:

As one would expect, the Atom does perform better (about 14%), but considering the power differences, the OMAP does surprisingly well.  It is also unknown in this demo if the screen size would make a significant difference in the results.  Like most things, the choice depends on the application, and no two applications are the same, and each solution has advantages.  Some things to think about:

  1. Power: OMAP3 platform consumes on the order of <1-2W while the Atom is more in the range of 2-5W.
  2. High Speed I/O Interfaces: Atom supports PCI and PCI expansion interfaces where OMAP3 is limited to more special purpose user interfaces such as SD, Camera, Asynchronous bus, etc.  Both Atom and OMAP support High Speed USB.
  3. Packaging: OMAP3 packaging is very aggressive with the stacked Package-on-Package.  To get an idea how much space an OMAP3 solution takes, check out the module from Gumstix.  There are basically only two chips in the system: the OMAP3+stacked RAM/Flash and a power management+I/O chip.  This is very high integration!
  4. Module availability: for many embedded systems with volumes in the 1000′s of units per year, a module solution is very attractive compared to a full custom design.  This drastically reduces the engineering effort and time to market.  A sampling of the modules available include:
  5. Software support:  TI and the open source community have done a remarkable job of supporting the OMAP3 with the BeagleBoard effort.  Gumstix maintains open source software for their devices, and has a very active development community.  Intel also has invested significantly in software with their Moblin project.  Other factors to consider is the boot software (bootloader vs BIOS, is it open?), are there 3D graphics libraries available, etc.
  6. Multimedia processing:  The OMAP3 is available with an on-chip DSP.  Intel has traditionally offered extensions for multimedia processing such as SIMD.


  • Frans said,

    Another interesting omap3 board is beagleboard (
    usd 149 for rev B (probably 150 for rev C)

  • John Bender said,

    Being that the second bench ran on a completely different windowing system wouldn’t that have an effect on the performance? Not to mention its a different version of the browser.

    Also, I’m not sure about the conclusion at the end that the performance/energy efficiency would scale in a linear fashion when the ARM is clocked up.

  • Cliff Brake said,

    Good points. I agree that this is not necessarily apples to apples comparison, and we can’t put a lot of weight on the exact numbers, but the tests are a rough indication of performance (at least in some aspects). They tell me that both OMAP3 and Atom should be seriously considered, and performance may not be the deciding factor.

  • somebody said,

    Another Great Open-Projekt with the OMAP3 is the OpenPandora an Open Handhelt made from User fore User and not for Gaming only ;-)

  • Lawrence Ricci said,

    Nice to see our Catalyst board put to good use. I will be showing performance/power benchmarks at ESC Show end of month.

    We do many many ARM and Many Many Atom boards. They appeal to different applications. With ARM, expect lower hardware cost and more development effort. With Atom- which is basically x86- much software is plug and play. This is critical in the Linux environment because the Linux offerings for browsers, graphics, etc are a bit sparce at the low end ARM world. Atom supports ubuntu which is quite rich.

    BTW- an industrial temperature Atom has just been introduced- here is a test report: If you have any questions on Atom, reach me via the website.

    Lawrence Ricci