At the Intel Developer Forum held in San Francisco this past week, Intel announced new low-power processors designed to compete with ARM processors and AMD’s Kabini and Temash lineups.
The company also introduced new processors in the Haswell family and the much-anticipated Bay Trail Atom processors.
Bay Trail is the company’s first revision of Atom, changing the architecture completely to support new technologies and software. Bay Trail will primarily be seen in fanless designs and is almost a complete system-on-chip. Bay Trail scales up from dual-core to quad-core designs and incorporates the same Intel HD graphics silicon found in the latest Haswell processors.
Bay Trail chips are fabricated using the 22nm process and are designed to operate in tablets and affordable thin-and-light notebooks. The two lineups are the Z3600 and Z3700 series at extremely low voltages and TDPs (Thermal Design Power). The architecture even scales up to desktop chips and Bay Trail will be appearing in the Celeron and Pentium lineups on the desktop, soldered into motherboards and sold as all-in-one solutions.
Compared to the previous Atom Clover Trail family, Bay Trail is on the order of two to four times faster than its predecessor while consuming nearly half the power. It supports resolutions up to 2560 x 1600 pixels and incorporates many new security features that Intel has included to allow Bay Trail devices to be used in corporate environments.
Intel says that Bay Trail is best suited for use in tablets, low-cost notebooks and Chromebooks under the $499 price range, but when these devices will be available locally, and at what price point, is anyone’s guess. The surprise of the announcement was that Bay Trail processors would work in both Android and Windows 8 environments. This brings up Google’s operating system closer to seeing use on the desktop.
Bay Trail represents a shift in Intel’s efforts in the mobile sector, especially as ARM has almost complete dominance in the market, with AMD struggling to find relevance. While Kabini and Temash may be great designs from AMD, they come too late, use too much energy, and won’t be as flexible as what Intel is offering today.
Performance-wise, Bay Trail is nothing like its Atom siblings. As mentioned earlier, we’re looking at a 2-4x increase in raw performance and compute ability, and some websites who had hands-on time with prototype hardware have come away impressed. Anandtech was lucky enough to run a few benchmarks and were suitably astounded – Bay Trail’s quad-core designs can come within striking distance of a dual-core Core i5 processor in some multi-threaded benchmarks.
Bay Trail is not Intel’s best effort in the mobile sector – it is leaving some performance on the table to allow for newer, better products in the future. But I would not be surprised if 2014 is a busy year for the mobile industry. This is ARM’s first major competitor and will surely also render Windows 8 RT irrelevant with time. I look forward to a quad-core 11-inch notebook with either Bay Trail or Temash hardware next year.