Intel clearly has not been at the helm of affairs in the great tablet game being played out. So while Apple with its A4 chip has been the dominating force in the first round of the tablet war, the company has now upped the ante with the upgraded dual core A5 chips now doing duty in the new iPad 2. Intel has however been relegated to play only a side role so far with only a few “Intel inside” tablets getting through production onto shelves. Most have been sliding back into oblivion without a trace with alarming regularity.
Of course it wasn’t without good reason. The Intel chip has always been accused to be too power hungry leading to a dismal battery times. Incidentally, battery backup time is one of the key factors that can determine between the winner and the vanquished. Since one reason for the stupendous success of tablets is increased mobility, surely one won’t like to be identified with a tablet that must be taken to the nearest power outlet every few hours. The iPad (and also the iPad 2) set the benchmark in this with a battery backup time in excess of 9 hours.
So how does Intel respond to the situation? The company now seems ready to ship its latest Atom Oak Trail processors that it had been showing off for some time now. The Intel Z760 series of processors are the first chips to have been developed on the company’s Oak Trail platform and will be noted for their extremely low power requirements, making them just right for mobile and portable devices such as tablet PCs. It is a 45nm low power processor that can operate without emitting excessive amounts of heat thereby supporting the design of fan-less computer architecture. Also, a fan-less design ensures almost complete silent operations in comparison to the current crop of machines running on Intel processors.
However, while the new Z670 processor might yet lag behind ARM based chips regarding power requirements and standby capabilities, the fact that they are x86 processors makes Intel’s chip more attractive. They are capable of running Windows without having to wait for Microsoft ‘to completely retool the operating system to support ARM chips.’
The Atom Z670 is a single core 32-bit chip having a clock speed of 1.5 GHz. The chip supports hyperthreading as well as Intel HD audio and 1080p HD video decoding. There will also be hardware support for Adobe Flash, which means the tablet can benefit from rich content and run flash based games.
The Oak trail will be followed by the ‘Cedar Trail’ which will be able to support Blu-ray 2.0 video playback, DisplayPort technology as well as Intel’s new wireless display and audio technologies among everything else. The Cedar Trail will be a reality before the year end itself marking increased effort on part of Intel to not only play catch up to the likes of the chips brought out by Qualcomm, NVIDIA, Texas Instruments, and so on, but to also surpass them.
“The new Intel Atom ‘Oak Trail’ platform, with ‘Cedar Trail’ to follow, are examples of our continued commitment to bring amazing personal and mobile experiences to netbook and tablet devices, delivering architectural enhancements for longer battery life and greater performance,” said Doug Davis, vice president and general manager of the Netbook and Tablet Group at Intel.”
The Intel Oak Trail supports Android and will be seen in a host of tablet PC from companies such as Lenovo, Fujitsu, Lenovo, Motion Computing, Razer, and Viliv. Intel announced there are at least 35 products that will be launched this year powered by Oak Trail chips, with the earliest to come by around May.