When we talk about portables and tablets, ARM and its SoCs are still a hot topic. We should be seeing quad-core Cortex-A15 units towards the start of next year, which promise to offer 40 per cent greater performance over the current A9 generation on the same manufacturing process, whilst still offering the super battery-life we expect from ARM-based devices.
Typically, we imagine Intel-based devices to have a little more *umph* when it comes to performance and a little less when it comes to battery life. With Microsoft's Windows 8 offering up a tablet-friendly experience, now would be a great time for Intel to flex those x86 muscles, however, the firm, up until now, has still been troubled with battery life.
Intel plans to change all this, however, with its new Clover Trail Atom processor. One such SoC, the Z2760, will feature two of Intel's latest Atom 1.8GHz cores, paired with an SGX545 graphics core (often found alongside ARM IP, such as on the iPhone 5).
The Atom Z2760 is actually nothing special when it comes to performance. Based on an older 32nm manufacturing process, the chip sits around the comparative performance level of an old Core2 Duo 1.2GHz, which, in raw MIPS numbers falls below a typical 2.5GHz dual-core Cortex-A15. However, the Z2760 is x86 and this means that it can run full-fat Windows 8.
What's more, Intel has squeezed the power consumption of its entire platform down. The Z2760 will still gobble-up power under heavy usage, however has more power states, including an all-important optimised 'S0ix' state for WiFi and background tasks, which will allow the platform to take-on ARM power characteristics in standby. Likewise, the wake-up time of the device is now near-instant and consumes less power.
With all this in mind, Intel is claiming that its reference design is capable of offering 10 hours of full use, with standby times of up to 30 days. Support for NFC and 4G modems will be present, however the chip isn't yet capable of effectively driving 1080p displays and has no support for USB 3.0, which can instead be found on bulkier, power-hungry Core i alternatives.