Intel Launches Clover Trail Atom Z2760 SoC and Multiple Windows 8 Tablet Design Wins

Though we gave you a glimpse of it in our IDF 2012 coverage, Intel is officially unveiling their new Atom Z2760 dual-core SoC (System on Chip), code named Clover Trail.  The Z2760 is a dual-core Atom-based chip with a 1.8GHz clock frequency and support for Intel Hyperthreading technology which allows two cores to process four threads to enhance performance in multithreaded workloads.  Clover Trail is manufactured using Intel's 32nm process node and is targeted at ultra-mobile computing applications like tablets and adjacent convertible devices.  Imagination Technologies' PowerVR SGX545 graphics core has been coupled with the Atom architecture on the Z2760 for what Intel claims will be the best, low-power Windows 8 tablet experience available when they begin to ship from a number of top name manufacturers in the coming months.

In fact Intel is claiming design wins from virtually all the top brands, including: Acer, ASUS, Dell, Fujitsu, LG, Samsung, ZTE, and others. “This is just the beginning of Intel’s effort in the tablet market, and our goal is to deliver products that fit the spectrum of evolving needs of both consumers and business users without compromising on compatibility, experience or battery life,” said Erik Reid, general manager, Application Processor Platforms for Intel’s Mobile and Communications Group. “When people or corporations buy a device with Intel Inside, they’re getting the best of Windows 8 features with a computing experience that just works.”

Intel Atom Z2760 Clover Trail System on a Chip

According to Intel, the Z2760 will allow their partners to product the thinnest and lightest tablets possible featuring the Intel architecture, with tablets as thin ad 8.5mm and as light as 1.5 pounds slated to arrive in the not too distant future. Although much of this video from IDF shows Ivy Bridge-based Windows 8 devices in action, Clover Trail is featured at the very beginning. As you'll see performance seems fluid and switching between applications is smooth and quick.
The low-power characteristics of the Z2760 will also reportedly enable excellent battery life. Intel is claiming battery life of over 10 hours when playing local HD video and up to 3 weeks or more of standby time. Tablets featuring the Z2760 will also be outfitted with Near Field Communication (NFC), which allows for proximity pairing between other NFC-enabled mobile devices. In addition to the aforementioned items, the Atom Z2760 also includes support for HD cameras (up to 8MP) as well as Wi-Fi, and 3G and 4G LTE WWAN connections. For a more complete feature breakdown, here are some details and specifications directly from Intel’s release…
  • High-Performance Dual-Core Processor – The Intel Atom processor Z2760 is a dual-core, four-thread, up to 1.80 GHz processor featuring Intel® Burst Technology and Intel Hyper-Threading Technology.
  • Intel Burst Technology – Enables the processor to dynamically burst to higher performance, making it possible to provide on-demand, higher performance in small device form factors.
  • Intel Hyper-Threading Technology – Intel Hyper-Threading Technology provides performance and support for multi-threaded applications, helping to deliver increased performance and system responsiveness in today's multitasking environments by enabling the processor to execute two instruction threads in parallel.
  • System-on-Chip (SoC) Process Technology – The Intel Atom Processor Z2760 uses 32nm process technology with second-generation high-k metal gate transistors.
  • Intel Graphics Media Accelerator – Integrated graphics with up to 533 MHz graphics core frequency and hardware acceleration support for 1080p video encode and decode.
  • Internal/External Display – Support for one internal MIPI-DSI or LVDS display in additional to one external HDMI* 1.3 display.
  • Integrated Memory Controller and LPDDR2 Support – An integrated 32-bit dual-channel memory controller offers fast memory read/write performance through efficient pre-fetching algorithms, low latency and high memory bandwidth. The Intel Atom Processor Z2760 includes support for LPDDR2, 800 MT/s data rates, up to 2 GB.
  • Storage – Embedded Multimedia Card 4.41 (eMMC 4.41).
  • Power Management – Uses low power idle standby states (S0ix) to support Microsoft* Connected Standby.
  • Camera and Image Signal Processor (ISP) – Integrated ISP with support for a primary HD camera (up to 8MP) and secondary camera (up to 2.1MP).
  • Security – Secure Boot, with firmware-based Intel Platform Trust Technology (fTPM).
  • I/Os – GPIOs, USB 2.0, I2C, UART, SPI, SDIO 2.0, MIPI* DSI and MIPI* CSI.
  • Compact Co-PoP Package – A compact 14mm x 14mm design with support for LPDDR2 customer-owned package on package.
  • Platform Sensors – Support for GPS, accelerometer / compass combination, hardware sensor hub, ALS, SARS, and proximity and thermal sensors.

High Level Block Diagram of Intel Atom Z2760 SoC

To enable ultra-small form factors and long battery life, Intel spent significant resources optimizing Clover Trail and the Z2760 for low-power operation. A large part of the power reduction comes by way of Intel’s S0ix power states, which shut down parts of the SoC when they’re not in use.

Thermal images are of Clover Trail, Intel's 32nm SoC in active and standby states - click for high res

When the SoC is in the S0i1 power state, for example, the chip’s GPU block, video encode/decode engines, display controller and its links to the IOH are all power gated, while the CPU cores are in a low-power C6 state. It’s only the C6 SRAM, wake logic, and power manager than remain fully active, which reduces power consumption significantly and allows for quick wake up times. This is possible because virtually everything in the Clover Train SoC is power and clock gated. In fact, when the chip is in the S0i3 state (not pictured), the majority of the chip is powered down, save for a bit of memory which must remain active and holds some state data.

We're told we'll be getting an early look at Clover Trail hardware very soon.  Several manufacturers have already offered an early peek at the hardware.  It's shaping up to be a busy October around here, so make sure you stay tuned.  It will be interesting to see how Clover Trail performs versus with Windows 8 in real-world testing, especially versus ARM-based Windows RT tablets, in the weeks ahead.  The Intel vs ARM battle will be raging strong again, as Intel continues to drive X86 further down the low power mobile device stack.  Once we get all touchy-feely with the first crop of slates to hit our test bench, we'll be sure to let you know.