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Intel's Broadwell Core M-5Y70: The First Benchmarks

Intel brought us by to run some benchmarks on the company's upcoming low-power Core M processor. We saw what the Core M-5Y70 (Broadwell-Y, 4.5W TDP) can do in a fanless tablet enclosure, and we compared it to an Atom Z3740D (Bay Trail, <4W TDP). Without further ado, lets get straight to those results:

The 3DMark scores demonstrate about a 3x performance increase for the Core M-5Y70. The interesting part is that this bump isn't restricted to graphics performance, but shows up in CPU physics computations, too.

Both SunSpider and Cinebench also showcase the Core M's strengths, with about a 2.5x advantage for the new low power Broadwell CPU compared to Bay Trail.

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You might be thinking that it isn't fair to compare a Core M (Broadwell-Y) to an Atom (Bay Trail). From a pricing perspective you'd be right: the Core M processor alone costs in the $300 range, while an entire tablet powered by an Atom processor, such as the Dell Venue 8 Pro, can be purchased for that price. Expect to pay closer to $1,000 for a premium Core M tablet or convertible. In addition, Bay Trail platforms are limited to 2 GB of RAM, while the Core M we benchmarked is equipped with 4 GB, so there's a good chance that is also a factor in the test results.

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But the comparison becomes relevant from a functionality standpoint: if you want a fanless x86 Windows tablet under 8 mm thick, Haswell-Y isn't a competitor. Bay Trail-based Atom processors were the best you could get before Core M arrived on the scene, and the difference in performance that Broadwell-Y brings for very thin and light tablets is monumental. Apple's iPad was the top-tier performer in this class, but it seems a foregone conclusion that Core M is going to change that situation in a hurry.

Speaking of the iPad, the Llama Mountain prototype tablet Intel showed us sports a 12.5" screen and weighs a mere 685 grams, with a slightly larger screen but practically the same weight as the product from Cupertino.

Intel had three demo models for us to check out: one with an aluminum chassis, one in gold-plated aluminum, and one in copper. These were used to test Core M's ability to stay within its thermal envelope, and the company claims that the new Broadwell-Y processors are able to keep suitably cool within all of these enclosures. It didn't make a difference in their performance tests.

Speaking of heat generation, Intel mentioned that OEMs have the option to configure all Core M processors to one of three TDP targets: 3 Watts, 4.5 Watts, or 6 Watts. This is to allow manufacturers to cater products for specific use-case scenarios. For instance, the top of the line Core M 5Y70 could be limited to a 3 Watt TDP in a product designed for maximum battery life. On the other hand, an enclosure with active cooling might support a 6 Watt TDP and provide a snappier response (to clarify, a 6 Watt solution wouldn't necessarily require a fan, a thicker enclosure with better heat dissipation would also do the trick). 

While more options are always nice to have, we have to note that consumers will have to be aware that the processor model number alone no longer guarantees a set level of performance. A Core M-5Y70 configured for a 3 Watt TDP will certainly demonstrate lower performance than the same processor with a 6 Watt TDP. Furthermore, a low-end Core M-5Y10 configured with a 6 Watt TDP would almost certainly outperform the top-of-the-line Core M-5Y70 configured for 3 Watts.

Intel strongly suggested that OEMs would probably apply TDPs to processors in a manner that makes sense from a marketing point of view. That's probably true but the point is that, now more than ever before, specific tablet and convertible models may perform better or worse based on the manufacturer's decision rather than just the processor they've been outfitted with. We might see meaningful differences between two products that carry the same model of CPU.

The picture above shows how small the Llama Mountain platform really is. Even with the daughterboard attached, as demonstrated it's a surprisingly small combo of PCBs, weighing in slightly over 3.2 ounces.

Aside from the benchmark numbers, we were shown some real-world demonstrations of the performance delta between two fanless convertibles. One was Lenovo's recently announced Helix tablet outfitted with a Core M-5Y10 (attached to the monitor on the right), versus a tablet armed with the Atom Z3740 (on the left monitor).

Unsurprisingly, the experience mirrors the benchmark results as there is a notable performance delta between the Atom and Core M. We look forward to testing Intel's new low-power darling against 11.5 Watt Haswell-Y CPUs to see if it can keep up or even surpass its predecessor with more than twice the TDP.

In addition, we were shown a real-world demonstration of Intel Moorefield powered tablets. Moorefield is a platform for Intel's Atom configured for use with the Android operating system. Here is a visual demonstration of the real-world performance difference between the quad-core Moorefield system (on the left) an 8-core ARM A9 Cortex (on the right):

Intel purports that the reason their quad-core Atom can show up the 8-core A9 is Intel's advantage when it comes to instructions-per-clock, coupled with the way Android is somewhat limited when it comes to efficient multi-threading.

Note that the Moorefield tablet is Dell's Venue 8 7000, the tablet that was just announced at IDF and equipped with Intel's RealSense dual camera system. Thanks to this hardware, Dell's tablet is capable of surprising functionality such as measuring objects from pictures. All of the Venue 8 7000's capabilities are not yet fully known, but a dual camera system is theoretically capable of taking 3D pictures, too.

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