Before you plop down $499 for that new iPad Air, consider that you could pick up a speedy tablet that lasts even longer on a charge and comes with a built-in keyboard for $150 less. The ASUS Transformer Book T100 is just one of several compelling tablets and hybrids powered by Intel’s new Bay Trail platform that are now hitting shelves. This third-generation Atom chip is set to do for Windows tablets what its ancestor did for netbooks, while helping Intel gain share from ARM-based competitors such as Qualcomm and Nvidia in the Android space.e
Made with the same 22-nanometer manufacturing process as Intel’s 4th generation Core Series, Bay Trail processors offer plenty of power for real productivity, media playback and casual gaming. Yet because of their low-power design — and Intel’s aggressive pricing — quad-core Bay Trail CPUs appear in a new-generation of budget-minded Windows tablets.
Intel managed double the processing performance and triple the graphics over the previous generation through a variety of innovative changes. As the first Atom processor series made with a 22-nanometer die that has tri-gate power-saving transistors, Bay Trail is able to pack in four cores without eating up too much power or space. A new microarchitecture also allows the chips to execute more instructions per clock cycle while a new Burst Mode lets them temporarily raise their clockspeed to complete demanding tasks.
“That shrink down to 22-nanometers both brings die size down and lets us fit into an ever-smaller package footprint as well as bringing down your power profile,” said John Wallace, Business Line Manager of Intel’s Mobile and Communications Group. “So all four cores can still fit into that same low-power envelope to give greater than 10 hours of active battery life.”
Bay Trail’s integrated Intel HD graphics chip has the same type of architecture that Intel has used in previous generation Core Series processors. The chip also provides support for Direct X 11, a standard used in a number of demanding games.
“We’re bringing a PC-class graphics architecture down from Ivy Bridge to an Intel SoC,” Wallace said.
Where the previous-generation chip could not support resolutions higher than 1366 x 768, Bay Trail can output at up to 2560 x 1600. The new platform has also been optimized for 4K video playback. When we ran a sample 3840 x 2160 video on both a Bay Trail tablet and an older, Clover Trail model, the Bay Trail slate provided smooth playback while its older brother couldn’t even manage 1 frame per second.
All that speed and power efficiency means little if most users can’t afford Bay Trail products. Fortunately, it looks like Intel and its partners are being just as aggressive on pricing as they are on performance. In fall 2013, we’ve seen a number of sub-$400 windows slates with Bay Trail, including the $299 Lenovo Miix2, the $349 ASUS Transformer Book T100 and the Toshiba Encore. Though Intel won’t share its wholesale prices, the company is trying to help vendors hit affordable price points.
“We work very closely with our OEM partners on what they are trying to achieve in their designs and where Intel can help enable that,” said Chris Walker, Intel’s general manager for tablet application processors. ”You’ll see Bay Trail be in smaller 7 to 8-inch tablet devices and those are going to be at mainstream tablet price points, even at $200 or below on something like Android next year.”
Up until now, Intel has had a few Android tablet design wins using its older and more sluggish Clover Trail chip, such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1. With Bay Trail, Intel can finally compete with ARM-based processor makers such as Qualcomm and Nvidia on performance, allowing it to grab a bigger piece of the Android pie.
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