At this year’s IDF Intel announced its third major microarchitecture family: Quark. Before Quark we had Core at the high-end and Atom for smartphones/tablets/cheap PCs. Quark adds a third vector, below Atom, with a focus on even lower power, more cost sensitive markets (e.g. low power embedded).

Intel finds itself in an interesting position today. When it first launched Atom, x86 compatibility was a selling point - something no competing ARM solution at the time could offer. These days the bulk of the mobile world is built on ARM code. Similarly, because of ARM’s excellent portfolio of super cheap, low power cores, there are many other markets where ARM is just as prevalent. Add onto that some of the lowest cost platforms to develop on and do neat things with run ARM based silicon, and not x86. In other words, there’s an entirely new generation of platforms, developers and applications that aren’t x86 compatible. Over the long run this poses a big problem to Intel. While x86 might not be an advantage in a lot of high growth markets, it’s still an advantage in many others. Any erosion of that advantage simply puts Intel in a much more difficult position in the long run.

The solution, albeit a bit late, is Quark. The design is 32-bit Pentium ISA compatible (Intel apparently loves starting out new projects with the Pentium ISA), and features a core that should be roughly 1/5 the size of Atom and capable of operating at as little as 1/10 the power. Quark's other major selling point is it is a fully synthesized design. It'll be built exclusively at Intel fabs to start (the first chips are built at 32nm), but Intel made it very clear that if you want a cheap, low power x86 core to integrate alongside your own IP, it'll offer you Quark. Previously Intel provided no such solution, which drove some customers to ARM. You could even speculate on what this means for Intel's strategy as being even more of a player in the foundry space.

Today Intel is announcing a microcontroller board based on the Quark X1000 SoC called Galileo. The Quark implementation on the board is a single-core running at 400MHz (single speed, there’s no speedstep equivalent here). There’s a 16KB L1 cache and 512KB on-die embedded SRAM.

The board features a 10/100 Ethernet, mini-PCIe slot (PCIe gen 2 x1), USB 2 host controller, USB client connector, JTAG header and 256MB of DRAM. Galileo also features an 8MB SPI Flash for firmware/bootloader/sketch storage. MicroSD card support is optional. Galileo measures 4.2 inches long by 2.8 inches wide.

The other big feature of Galileo is that it is compatible with Arduino software and shields, making it a great target for students and educators in the maker scene.

It’s good to see Intel doing this sort of stuff, as it's extremely important to get early exposure to x86 among maker enthusiasts if Intel wants to keep x86 around in the long run (although I would’ve liked to have seen it a few years ago). Intel will be giving away 50,000 Galileo boards to 1000 universities worldwide over the next year and a half or so to spark development. Boards will be available for sale by the end of November, at a price under $60.

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  • Not This Guy - Thursday, October 3, 2013 - link

    Whole board operates at 3.3V with a maximum draw of 800mA (@ 3.3V or 5V).
  • dealcorn - Thursday, October 3, 2013 - link

    Does the mini-PCIe slot supports m-sata? Does the board support DEVSLP? It may have appeal as a low power Debian server. I would spend $5 to turn the client usb into a second ethernet port and run firewall/router services, DNS/DHCP servers, a P2P daemon and a ssh server. The memory and CPU may be a lovely match for this workload. If average power consumption at the wall is under 3 watts, it sounds good to me. Not every server requires Atom class horsepower.
  • extide - Monday, January 13, 2014 - link

    No, it does not support SATA at all.
  • Mr Perfect - Thursday, October 3, 2013 - link

    It would be fun if they'd make a sort of Raspery PI competitor out of this. All this thing needs is a video display, and it's essentially my gaming rig from the late '90s! A quick stop at and I'm good.
  • hammer256 - Thursday, October 3, 2013 - link

    From the comments here, there seem to be some confusion as to what Quark is targeting. Reading AnandTech's Quark article would suggest that Quark is targeted at the Cortex-M and R series, which are embedded microcontrollers with real-time performance. If you look at the Arduino Due that uses a Cortex-M3, you'll notice it has a bunch of IO pins and things, but far less other integrated stuff such as ethernet and PCI-E (!). The microcontroller is very lean, so the user can write code and attach interrupts with the confidence that they will be executed within a fixed upper-bound latency. Consequently, the code is also very lean, generally without an operating system.

    If you look at the Cortex-A series of CPUs, you'll see lots of features comparable to Quark. The platform that's more comparable would be the raspberry Pi, which has decent amount of dram and all those integrated stuff and actually runs a full fledged OS.

    So it looks to me that Quark is somewhere between the Cortex A and M series, which might be the reason people are confused as to what to compare it to in the ARM space. Ultimately I think to compete in the microcontroller space the Quark needs to be real-time, which in my limited understanding has some constraints as to what the processor can support.
  • Jaybus - Thursday, October 3, 2013 - link

    We used 80x86 PCs running DOS back in the 80's for lab instruments. TSR (Terminate and Stay Resident) routines are used. They load an area of reserved RAM with the interrupt handler code and set an interrupt vector. There is no scheduler. There is no user mode or kernel mode. The interrupt handler loaded into RAM by the TSR literally runs immediately (the very next instruction) when the interrupt occurs. It exits by literally jumping back to the program counter address at the time the interrupt occurred. It just does not get any more real-time than that. Of course, you are limited to running a single task, but most real-time microcontroller space stuff only needs a single task. So using Quark for real-time microcontroller stuff could is really simple. Just run DOS, loading your interrupt handlers with TSRs and launching your control app at boot.
  • extide - Monday, January 13, 2014 - link

    The quark can fully support running as RealTime, in fact just about any CPU can, it really is up to the OS/software, not the CPU. For example, you can run RTLinux on a Quark SOC and get real-time performance.
  • Kevin G - Thursday, October 3, 2013 - link

    The mPCIe slot is the most interesting aspect of this device since that can be adapted to a PCIe 1x slot. There are means of getting video cards to fit into a PCIe 1x slot for those truly crazy.
  • HardwareDufus - Friday, October 4, 2013 - link

    I'm not sure I quite get it either.
    I am an avid user of Arduino UNO, Arduino DUE and RasberryPi.

    Several hobbyist from Australia, GreatBritain and Venezuela are working on implementing the native Ethernet interface on the Cortex-M3 of the DUE (2). Others here in the US and Tiajan have developed FULL graphical UI libraries and are integrating decent sized full color LCDs with touch capabilities. SD libraries give us DOS like storage capabilities. Then, there are the I/O interfaces....CAN, I2C/TWI, SPI, Serial, USB, etc... Limiting factor for us with DUE is Speed (86Mhz) and Memory (512KB). The ARM libraries for DUE still need work.

    For most of my projects the ArduinoUNO (1) with it's 5V interfaces and 16Mhz CPU is sufficient.... I've even begun to use the Arduino Mini Pros...operating at 3.3v @ 8Mhz. The AVR libraries for UNO are very mature.

    Then of course there is RasberryPI....I have it running with the Rasbian Linux distribution. It overclocks reliably to 1Ghz.... and the 512MB of ram is plenty. It's really neat to hook this thing up to the HDMI input of a large 1920X1080 LCD TV and use it like a PC. I have several shields for it as well...from Relays, General I/O and Scientific Instrumentation.

    There is something here though.... Arduino recently released the YUN... which has a MIPS processor running at 400Mhz with 256MB of ram and runs a Linino Linux distribution. It is coupled with an AVR processor for full UNO 5v functionality compatability. The entire device shares the UNO R3 footprint.

    In the Spring, Arduino will be releasing the TRE (3). This uses a Cortex A-8 processor at 1Ghz with 512MB of ram. It too will be coupled with a UNO AVR compatabile microcontroller for full UNO 5V compatiability. Interesting the Cortex A-8 will also drive several 3.3v I/O points.

    So, Intel is just moving into a space that others like Arduino are occupying or plan to occupy.

    WIth so many of us investing so much time into the Cortex-M3 architecture and the Arduino Develpment Environment..... looks like we will be getting left behind. Bummer.
  • Phillip.Muniz - Friday, October 18, 2013 - link

    I work for Mouser Electronics and we now have the Intel Galileo available for pre-order on our website. We’ll be getting the first shipments of stock in mid-November.


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