Intel's Windows 8 tablet Atom chip yields up its secrets
Inside Clover Trail
IDF 2012 Intel has begun to reveal what's inside the next generation of tablet- and smartphone-specific Atom processors, codenamed respectively Clover Trail and Clover Trail Plus.
Clover Trail, which the chip giant has been dropping hints about since mid-2011, has been designed "from the ground up" for Windows 8 but builds on the current Z-series Atom platform, Medfield, with its single CPU core system-on-a-chip, Penwell.
Clover Trail's central component is an SoC which will incorporate a pair of HyperThreading enabled cores, each with 512KB of L2 cache; dedicated 30fps 1080p video encoding and decode units; an image processing unit for fast photo manipulation, separate from the 2D/3D graphics; a security module; and IO circuitry and controllers for HDMI 1.3, USB, SDIO, Flash storage and low-power DDR 2.
The broader platform - the chips and parts outside the SoC, but still part of Clover Trail - include 8Mp rear and 2Mp front cameras; up to 64GB of Flash storage; Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 3G HSPA+ connectivity; and NFC.
Clover Trail Plus has essentially the same SoC elements, though the CPU module of the SoC is slightly different, Intel staff indicated. It'll ship as the Atom Z2580. The Medfield smartphone SoC, the Atom Z2460, clocks at up to 2GHz. That's its burst mode speed, a peak it'll reach if there's thermal headroom for it to do so, and its successor is likely to go higher. The Z2580 is slightly bigger than the Z2460: 14mm² to the latter's 12mm².
There'll also be an SoC for budget smartphones, the Z2000. It'll run at up to 1.2GHz.
On the tablet side, the Clover Trail SoC will reach 1.8GHz, up from the current Z2610's 1.6GHz.
Both incoming SoCs support up to 2GB of LPDDR 2 in a package-on-package configuration: the memory die piggy-backs on the SoC, saving motherboard space. Intel reckons the resulting tablets need be no thicker than 8.5mm even so.
Both Clover Trail SoCs will be fabbed at 32nm. At some point in the future - Intel's not saying precisely when - a new architecture produced at 22nm will be introduced to supersede it. The new tablet-centric version is codenamed Bay Trail. ®
Re:"Why would you stick a brand new, bloated OS on a low-power cpu? "
The tablet version of Clover trail can (although dual core) can under certain tasks "emulate" a quad core cpu. It is in fact rather more powerful than previous atoms (although I admit that would not be hard) and significantly less battery demanding. Other criticisms of Win8 to one side, bloated it certainly is not. It is in fact respectably more power efficient and noticeably nippier than Win7. You have of course tried it on a tablet yourself that was previously running Win7 so you could make a direct comparison, just like I have?
The last leaked road map I saw..............
................implied middle of 2013 some time.
"At some point in the future - Intel's not saying precisely when - a new architecture produced at 22nm will be introduced to supersede it. The new tablet-centric version is codenamed Bay Trail. ®"
If they are not talking about a die shrink of Clover trail first followed by a architecture change with Bay trail, it implies a new architecture combined with a die shrink in one hit. If the leaks are within hailing distance of reality that combination of tick and tock will deliver a hell of a jump in both processing and graphics as well as a very big improvement in power efficiency.
> I'd have to be bribed quite a bit to buy a computer with an Atom processor inside.
It does seem like a rather "special" application. They cost about 3/4 of an old core2 but do so much less and are likely to be on a hobbled motherboard.
Why would you stick a brand new, bloated OS on a low-power cpu? Are consumers going to be able to get a cheap server version of W8 with the desktop removed from the kernel?
Product positioning gone bad, I think.
When that comes..
I'll be sure to ask the Easter bunny to pass my request onto Santa.
I'd have to be bribed quite a bit to buy a computer with an Atom processor inside.