Last month’s IDF in San Francisco revealed more than Intel’s Chromebook-bound Haswell chips. It was there where the company undressed their alluring new Bay Trail. Bay Trail is being marketed as the faster power-rich power-efficient successor to the current Clover Trail silicon. Like Clover Trail before it, Bay Trail will be Intel’s new front runner to power tablets, 2-in-1 convertible PC-tablet hybrids and even some All-in-One solutions.
Bay Trail is Intel’s answer to the ARM camp of processors, which are more widely adopted and found in familiar devices like the iPad and Samsung Galaxy S4. Readers may remember, the competitive performance of Clover Trail is what earned Intel a seat at the mobile device table. Yet mobile device manufactures remained cautious, leading to a less-than-stellar adoption rate of the Clover Trail silicon.
Early reports paint a promising picture for the new processor where performance and power consumption are the main deciding factors. So let’s take a look at what’s different inside Bay Trail that might grab the attention of mobile computing manufacturers for inclusion in their next generation of smart-devices and mobile computing products.
1. New Processor Architecture
One of the most significant changes Bay Trail enjoys over its Clover Trail predecessor is a new processor architecture. Succinctly speaking, Bay Trail can house up to four CPU cores (Silvermont) but without Hyper-Threading. Yet this means Bay Trail should offer a cleaner and more responsive touch-UI and peppier performance in areas like web browsing, power saving and extended battery life.
2. Faster Than Recently Adopted Clover Trail
Clover Trail uses an older CPU architecture, which is just now being more widely accepted. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3, which just launched this Summer, is a good example of a recent device inclusion of the older Clover Trail silicon. However, the processing cores in Bay Trail are up to 3x as fast as the previous generation. This is also supported by raw numbers from Anandtech and others who have enjoyed hands-on time with Windows and Android OS reference tablets.
3. New Features
Bay Trail also brings some interesting new tricks to its processing cores, which should go a long way to efficiency of power, battery life and performance. We will also see Dual Channel 64bit memory used for a significant boost in efficiency and possibly doubling the data capacity. In most CPUs, software initially determines the order in which instructions are executed. In order to assure instructions are handled as soon as information is available for processing, the cores in this new silicon make use of out-of-order execution (OoOE).
Because of such, improvements are seen in speed, performance and energy consumption. More urgent response and recovery after pipeline crashes, is also on tap for Silvermont processing cores found in Bay Trail. Moreover, we should also see enhancements to the latency and throughput. In essence, such improvements mean, multiple instructions can be successfully processed in approximately half the time, according to Intel diagrams. That’s a much needed asset for mobile computing where users expect immediacy and peppy response times from their mobile hardware.
4. Guilt by Association
The white paper spins a powerful and impressive yarn for ambitious the Bay Trail. Playing with devices powered by Bay Trail could be fun, productive and efficient. But therein lies the rub for Intel and Bay Trail. Can the new silicon succeed where its predecessor struggled and tempt device manufacturers to take the risk? Intel has gone record stating no less than 10 tablets be available by the end of November. So if Bay Trail can lock down an attractive feature-rich “must-have” device, we should see some interesting consumer level tablets that can perform CPU level instructions with desktop level performance just below that of Ivy Bridge desktop CPUs. On the graphics processing side of things, Bay Trail is less promising than Nvidia’s new Tegra 4 and also struggles behind the higher tier offerings from Qualcomm. Still, such reports are so early and benchmarked using fledgling reference builds. Albeit, the Transformer Book T100 is out in the wild and powered by Bay Trail, featured in the video below.
5. Even Better Integrated Graphics
On the graphics processing end, Bay Trail has adopted the same HD 4000 integrated graphics solution found in Intel’s acclaimed 3rd generation Ivy Bridge family of CPUs. It may be a bit neutered by desktop standards. It uses 1/4th of the cores found in the garden variety HD 4000 integrated GPU. Four cores in the Bay Trail HD 4000 is still a massive increase in performance over the previous (single core) solution used in the Clover Trail family. However the commendable increase still leaves Bay Trail with an ambitious uphill battle when pitted against the likes of graphics processing solutions found on Nvidia’s Tegra 4 and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processor family.
6.Gaming and Bay Trail!
Offering context from a gamer’s perspective, Bay Trail can handle Valve’s Team Fortress 2, Star Craft 2, League of Legends, Fallout 3 (as seen above) and more. Word on the wind is, to play each of these settings have to dialed to the minimum. So while current-ish titles are playable, this is by no means a gaming machine. For instance, EA’s Crysis 1 is a no-go even on Low. Squeezing much more graphic crunching muscle out of the new tablet-bound silicon, is highly unlikely.
7. Bay Trail Can Run Full Windows 8.1!
Not only can it run it. Several early reports, including this one show Bay Trail doing incredibly well with scores in the 14k range on Futuremark’s Ice storm benchmark. For reference, that’s around low-mid range laptop status. Snapdragon has Bay Trail beat for sure in Android but Qualcomm’ chip is limited to ARM and Window RT. Bay Trail can handle 1080p Window 8.1 like a full blown laptop.
With all the allure and promise, it’s daunting and possibly a strategic misstep that Bay Trail will not be ready for this year’s crucial holiday shopping season. Yet when it does, what would it take for you to become an early adopter of the new silicon?