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Intel Bay Trail specs and features unveiled

David Ludlow
12 Sep 2013
Intel Bay Trail
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All of the new Bay Trail specs for tablet, laptop and desktop have been unveiled

Intel has unveiled the full details of its new Atom-based Bay Trail System on a Chip (SoC), which is designed to give high performance with low power requirements for low-cost systems.

A lot of the focus has been on tablet version of Bay Trail (the Atom Z3000 series, also known as Bay Trail-T), although there are also laptop (Bay Trail-M) and desktop (Bay Trail-D) versions of the SoC.

Shared features

All of the variants of Bay Trail use the same 22nm Silvermont Atom core. While previous Atom CPUs have generally appeared in very low-end and under-powered netbooks, Intel is keen for this generation to be seen differently. Rather than a step down from Core architecture, Intel wants Bay Trail to be seen as more of a step up from existing ARM-based tablet and mobile SoCs.

First and foremost, performance has been dramatically improved from the previous generation Clover Trail SoC, with Bay Trail offering up to three times the performance, while still having very low power requirements.

"It spans an ultra-wide dynamic range from extremely low power to extremely high performance," said Herman Eul, vice president of the mobile and communications group at Intel.

All Silvermont Atom cores support 64-bit instruction sets and are used in dual-core and quad-core SoCs.

In short, then, Intel wants Bay Trail to offer the kind of performance you'd usually expect in a full laptop, but with the criteria you'd expect to find in a tablet: long battery life and a low price.

Bay Trail-T, Atom Z3000

Intel's main focus at IDF 2013 was the tablet-orientated Bay Trail-T, or the Atom Z300 series to give it its proper model name. Fitting in with Intel's platform agnostic approach, the Atom Z3000 range is designed to run both Windows and Android on the same hardware. An OEM could, for example, buy exactly the same components and make separate Windows and Android devices from them.

The reason behind the dual OS support isn't really one of technicalities, but more one of resources. John Wallace, business line manager at Intel, explained that for the previous generation Clover Trail it was "about resources and focus", so there was Windows 8 support only. With Bay Trail it was about "using the flexibility of x86 and applying it", allowing it to work with Android.

In addition to the supporting Android, Intel also has software in Android that lets the x86 version run ARM-architecture apps. This is primarily done in software, but Wallace explained that the performance impact is negligible and not " not end-user discernable".

Low power requirements mean that the Z3000 series can be squeezed into a chassis just 8mm thick, with no fans required - exactly what you'd expect from a tablet. Intel is claiming that devices to use this SoC will have up at least 10 hours of battery life.

Graphics performance has also been dramatically increased from Clover Trail, with display resolutions up to 2,560x1,600 supported. Intel has said that all current Android games can be run at this resolution at full detail with no slow down.

The Z3700 series sits at the top of the range and has a quad-core CPU running at speeds of up to 2.4GHz, Intel HD graphics at resolutions of up to 2,560x1,600, 2MB of L2 cache and support for up to 4GB of RAM.

At the bottom end is the Z3600 series, which has a dual-core CPU running at speeds of up to 2GHz, Intel HD graphics at resolutions of up to 1,920x1,080, 1MB of L2 cache and support for up to 2GB of RAM.

Performance wise, the top-end Z3000 series should be a lot faster than ARM-based systems and closer to Haswell performance.

"Roughly speaking Haswell Y series [the low-power version] is two times the performance of [Bay Trail]," said Wallace.

The first set of products to use Bay Trail were announced, including the Dell Venue Windows slate tablet, and the Asus T100 detachable Windows tablet.

Bay Trail-M and Bay Trail-D

With the increased performance of the Silvermont Atom, Intel also sees that Bay Trail can be used in low-cost laptops and desktops, while maintaining the kind of performance that users expect.

Bay Trail-M is the mobile version of the platform, and will be sold as the Intel Pentium N3510 and Intel Celeron N2910, N2810 and N2805 processors. So, there'll be no Atom branding on these products and to distinguish from existing Pentium and Celeron products, the new line will be called New Pentium and New Celeron.

Intel has said that Bay Trail-M will be up to two times faster than existing Pentium and Celeron processors. It's also promising up to eight hours of battery life and low prices: non-touch clamshells will start at $199 (around £125), touch laptops from $249 (around £160) and touch '2-in-1' laptops from $349 (around £220). Bay Trail-M products will be available from Christmas.

Bay Trail-D products are designed for All-in-One systems and will also be sold using the Pentium and Celeron brand names: the Intel Pentium J2850, Intel Celeron J1850 and Intel Celeron J1750.

They can support fanless designs, which Intel hopes will open the way for small entry-level AiO PCs. Performance is promised at up to three times the performance of the existing equivalent processors. Systems running on these series will start at $199 (around £125).

Both variants have similar silicon to the Bay Trail-T, but with the added support for PCI-E and SATA, which isn't required on a tablet product.

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