Intel has been slowly, maybe too slowly, entering the mobile processor space for sometime. We got excited about MedField, then nothing really hit the streets, but the Intel Atom Z2760 aka Clover Trail processor that has just been announced promises to be different and from what we’ve seen so far it’s definitely worth taking a closer look.

Intel Atom Z2760 aka Clover Trail Announced – What you Need to Know

We’ve seen some example of Clover Trail tablets over the past 4 months and Intel has informed us that the tablets can be just 8.5mm thick, weigh 1.5 pounds, and get up to 10 hours of battery life. Intel claims that they’ve measured 10 hours of HD video playback with a 30Wh battery, and the screen set to a very reasonable 200 nits of brightness.

The biggest question on everyone’s lips is how does it stack up against MedField. Basically, rather than a single-core 2GHz chip with outdated PowerVR SGX 540 graphics, though, the new Atom runs at 1.8GHz and has a dual-core, four-thread CPU and the more recent PowerVR SGX 545 inside, and a TDP of just 1.7 watts, which means the chip should require less cooling and offer more battery life than laptop-sized Atoms even when fully stressed.

Graphics wise it’s supporting Direct X 9.3L and Open GL 2.X, Intel is not currently at production readiness for DX10 so they will be rolling out DX10 in future generations.

The processor also comes with hardware accelerations for video encode and decode but it does not support Intel’s video quick sync or if you’re looking for the buisness end of thing Vpro Support is also missing. On the video editing side I’m going to be curious how Cyberlink takes advantage of the hardware acceleration, they are currently one of the Intel’s most aggressive partners and they are already rolling out a Windows 8 optimized edition for tablets.

Some of the same tricks that we’ve seen in Medfield are also present in the Z2760, a fully programmable ISP camera, 8MP rear and 2MP front facing with 1080P, multishot and full 3A capability.

Low power consumption is the name of the game for this processor, it’s low power IOs have a lot in common here with their smartphone platform. Taking a closer look it’s got 256kb shared SRAM is additional to the main RAM which is dedicated to the low power consumption capabilities of the phone/tablet. Integrated Audio DPS have also been added for low power consumption. Wireless connectivity supports NDIS 6.5 AOAC offload requirements. “Off-SOC” drivers must support Windows 8 Runtime Power Management (RTPM) and we can also expect low power HID (Human Interface Device) over I2C devices. There are different wake events, data packet, keyboard and mouse and power button.

The Z2760 is architecturally different from Intel smart connect technology, since the system goes in and out of S3, it’s a new platfrom that does not support traditional S3.

Intel has provided some slides showing off the power consumption of the processor in different stand by states.

If you’re looking for how exactly the Z2760 differs from the main differences are:
Improved memory bandwidth
Dual core
Hyper threading

But the instruction set variants are the same as Medfield. There has also been a lot of talk about Clover Trail not being compatible with Android, Intel has clarified their position on this matter and the official statement is.

The current version of Clover Trail supports Windows 8 tablets. Intel has plans for another version of this platform directed at Linux/Android however we are not commenting on the platform specifics or market segments that at this time.

When talking to Stephen Smith Director of Tablet Development, MCG (Mobile & Computing Group) he assured me that is was only a matter of resources. They have focused this platform for the impending Windows 8 launch, when they are able to they will be rolling it out on Android. Which is basically what was said in the official statement.

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  • James

    A bit inaccurate on Medfield, the Z2460 is a single core 1.3GHz ATOM SoC that originally had a 1.6GHz Burst Mode, a feature similar to the Core i-Series Turbo Boost for performance on demand over clocking.

    FAB yields and tolerances just proved better than expected so they later increased the Burst Mode to 2GHz, but kept the normal clock speed at 1.3GHz.

    The expected dual core update, Z2580, will also have a base clock speed of 1.3GHz and a Burst Mode of 1.8GHz.

    Medfield also employs Hyper-Threading, along with shared 256KB SRAM. So pretty much the only thing Clover Trail introduces is dual core, Secure Boot, and Windows 8 support.

    It will be interesting if they really include a hardware encoder with the SGX545 based GMA for Clover Trail as that was left out of the Cedar Trail GMA, which is also based on the SGX545.

    While that feature is part of what Imagination offers with their PowerVR GPU’s, Intel has only applied it to Medfield GMA so far but since Clover Trail will be used on mobile capable tablets it makes sense for them to include it.

    Especially with the 8MP cameras that you wouldn’t have found on any netbook that Cedar Trail was used for…

    Another interesting note is Clover Trail will be using the same type of RAM and drive storage as most ARM devices. So we won’t be seeing high end SSDs but rather eMMC type drives.

    So don’t expect boot times to be as good as they will be on higher end tablets and laptops with much higher performing SSDs.

    However, this also means overall costs shouldn’t be that much higher than it costs to make ARM tablets, at least for the BOM part of the costs.