Intel At Computex
Rather than discussing CPU specifications, Intel's team spent its time focusing on the end-user experience. First, we were able to play with Lenovo's K900 smartphone, equipped with an Clovertrail+-based Atom Z2580 processor (dual-core 2.0 GHz with Hyper-Threading) and PowerVR SGX 544MP2 graphics. Surprise, it runs Android. The device is both attractive and responsive, boasting a 5.5” screen and 13 MP camera. Despite the size, it's hardly unwieldy thanks to a slim 6.9 mm profile and 165-gram mass. It may already be available in China for the equivalent of $540; the international market will need to wait until later in the summer for access to the K900.
We also witnessed another round of power usage demonstrations, beginning with a Core i5-4350U-equipped Ultrabook. The entire system, driven by that 15 W CPU, idled at less than 4 W. During HD video playback, it averaged between 5.5 and 6 W, though we saw spikes as high as 25 W. Armed with a fairly average battery pouch, that'd yield between nine and 10 hours of video playback. The Haswell architecture might not be impressing our editors in the desktop space, but its power-friendly attributes make it much more meaningful in the mobile segment.
A second power demo, this time comparing Clover Trail in a Windows 8-based tablet to Qualcomm's Snapdragon SoC and its Krait architecture. Both exhibited similar idle power use. Clover Trail was spiking higher in the logged power chart, while the Snapdragon SoC took longer to get back to idle. Of course, as you've seen, our biggest beef with the current crop of Windows 8 tablets is their build quality, particularly given premium prices. Hopefully this turns around with the Silvermont generation.
The last power demo was a Google Nexus 10, with its two Cortex-A15 cores at 1.7 GHz and Mali-T604 driving a 2560x1600 display. Claiming to measure total system power, the CPU cores, and graphics engine, Intel showed a combined CPU and GPU load throttling the tablet's performance. This is well-known behavior; it wasn't something we learned at Computex. But expect Intel's message moving forward to echo this theme: current ARM-based SoCs don't manage power gracefully. The Nexus 10 goes all-out until it runs into a thermal limit, at which point performance gets hammered. That's not behavior most enthusiasts would tolerate on the desktop.
Intel promises to behave better under Windows 8. It showed us a Bay Trail tablet based on a 22 nm SoC driving a 2560x1440 screen. We were then shown a second tablet looping a 3D demo. We touched the back of the chassis and it was barely warmer than room temperature. It turned out to be running a build of Android.
Next up was a prototype Ivy Bridge-Y-based platform running Android. Complemented by a 500 GB SSD, Intel had a first-person shooter running smoothly on it. Purportedly, battery life is as good as any Ivy Bridge-based Ultrabook. This isn't a planned product, but it does show the potential of Intel's new 7 W CPU segment.
Intel then showed off the latest Haswell-powered Acer Aspire S7. The S7 carries over its same form factor from last generation, but includes a 47 Wh battery now, up from 36 Wh. The sample in Intel's booth employed a 15 W Haswell processor with GT2 graphics. It was smooth enough in a touch-enabled game called Defense Grid, but we have to suspect that if it were capable of better numbers in a more popular title, Intel would have been using something else. We're told that a 28 W processor with Iris graphics should achieve about twice the performance. Maybe that's when we'll start seeing more familiar games being exhibited on an Ultrabook.
Finally, we got our hands on a second Aspire S7 equipped with a beautiful 4K screen with 10 ms response time. The higher-resolution panel doesn't affect battery life as much as you might suspect because it includes Panel Self-Refresh, which uses built-in logic to maintain an image on-screen with the need for a refresh, so long as the output doesn't change. This is only a demo, but apparently, Acer plans to manufacture the S7 with options like the one on display in Intel's booth.