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Sep 12, 2012

Most Tablet Makers Unimpressed with Intel Clover Trail




Intel’s Atom architecture took the computing market by surprise with its incredibly low power consumption, but also the unbelievably low performance. Now it seems that tablet makers have taken a good look at the way netbooks evolved and are apparently steering clear of Atom.

During this year’s IDF event in San Francisco, California, Intel reportedly touted “over 20 tablet design wins” with their Atom processors, and while this is a good number to start, we’d ask Intel if this is all it was able to get. Back when Nvidia was talking about Kepler, the company was bragging about “more than 300 design wins” and having a discrete GPU in a laptop is adding an extra cost as the same device could work just fine with an iGPU from AMD or Intel. Going for Intel’s Medfield or Clover Field platform is not adding any obvious extra hardware costs to a tablet design. The manufacturer should only decide if it wants to build an Atom-based tablet on not.

Actually going for Intel’s Atom could make the tablet a little bit more attractive as there is a huge software base available for the user, but there are many issues making the whole thing unattractive for tablet makers. One of the first and most important aspects is the low performance of the processors and the iGPUs inside them. A user running Windows8 compatible software on an Atom tablet will probably be frustrated about the low performance of the device and will return it or not buy it in the first place. Most customers are used with the performance they get from their laptops or desktops and seeing how the same programs move and feel on an Atom tablet will make the gadget less desirable. Microsoft made WindowsRT incompatible with the current x86 applications, thus forcing software makers to rework their programs and maybe optimize them in the process of porting to WindowsRT.

Even in demonstrations seen by our colleagues at IFA, WindowsRT tablets seemed simply snappier than Windows 8 models and this leads us to believe that many programs will actually work on Clover Trail, but the performance difference compared to a desktop x86 CPU will be too obvious. The second aspect is the added cost that Intel’s platform has, as the company is known for considerably overpricing its platforms compared to the competition. The third, and probably the most important, financial aspect is the added cost of a Windows 8 operating system license that can’t really compare in any way with Google’s Android that’s free.

There are no apparent power consumption advantages over ARM designs so this will not be a marketable feature as Qualcomm’s and Nvidia’s chips are considerably better. These and several other reasons are apparently keeping tablet makers away from Intel’s newest Atom platform.

Intel Developer Forum 2012 Logo
Image credits to Intel

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