New leaked slides
from Intel have shed additional light on how the company's 2014 platforms will challenge ARM products in the netbook/nettop space. At present, the company's efforts in the segment are anchored by Cedar Trail, the 32nm dual-core platform that launched a year ago. To date, all of Intel's platform updates for Atom
have focused on lowering power consumption and ramping SoC integration rather than focusing on performance -- but Bay Trail will change that.
Bay Trail moves Atom to a quad-core, 22nm, out-of-order design. It significantly accelerates the CPU core with burst modes of up to 2.7GHz, and it'll be the first Atom to feature Intel's own graphics processor instead of a licensed core from Imagination Technologies. TDPs are expected to hit the 4.6-5W range at the low end, with 10W parts at the upper -- that's comparable to Cedar Trail's overall target spread. Full HD encode/decode are also going to be supported. With DDR3-1333L (low-power) support, and external resolutions of up to 2560x1600, the new mobile platform should finally shake the netbook stigma that's dogged Atom for years.
The new 22nm chip should be a strong competitor for AMD's Kabini
(28nm, quad-core, expected to drop by the middle of this year) as well as ARM designs based on the Cortex-A15
. They'll also flatten Atom's previous performance.
Even without knowing the details of Atom's leap from in-order to out-of-order execution, we know the move will substantially increase the chip's efficiency before any additional clock speed or the move to quad-core is considered. Overall performance could jump by 50-70% as a result. That's going to put Intel in excellent shape to compete with both AMD and the various ARM vendors -- provided that the netbook space remains viable to begin with.
That last is somewhat in doubt. Asus and Acer announced this week that they would no longer manufacture any netbooks. These upgrades, however, could give Atom platforms the leg up they need to anchor the low end of the notebook market, rather than being consigned to a fundamentally lower class of performance. AMD is likely trying something similar with Kabini -- that chip will come in a quad-core configuration with an enhanced GPU, and may be capable of competing in markets where Brazos simply didn't have the chops.
Launch, however, is still a ways away. Bay Trail's netbook / nettop aren't a major focus for Intel in 2013 -- not when the company is focused on driving its traditional Core series of processors down to the 10W envelope and below. We expect Intel's CES disclosures to focus on Haswell
as well as upcoming smartphone/tablet/ultrabook design wins, with less space dedicated to parts that won't debut for a full year.
Bay Trail's tablet
platform is still expected to debut in 2013, with many of the features of its nettop/netbook cousin and the same quad-core, 22nm architecture.