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Intel has big ambitions for its low power Oak Trail Atom-based platform, which it says will trash ARM processors in Android performance.  (Source: Intel)

Sadly for Intel quite the opposite proved true in early benchmarks. ARM badly beat an Oak Trail prototype in app performance and heat.  (Source: Tweakers.net)

ASUSTek's Eee Transformer Pad, powered by NVIDIA's dual-core Tegra 2 ARM CPU proved the most powerful tablet in most benchmarks.  (Source: Android In)
The only benchmark Intel's new platform performed admirably in was Javascript performance

Intel Corp.'s (INTC) was quick to brag on dramatic process improvements that would propel its Atom chips to new levels of performance during its keynote at Computex 2011 in Taiwan.  The company says it will leverage its die shrink lead on Core brand CPUs to push yearly die shrinks for Atom over the next couple years, hitting the 14 nm node a couple years before ARM manufacturers.  And it says it will deploy its new tri-gate transistors at the Atom's 22 nm node in 2013.

I. Intel Oak Trail Gets Tested

By the looks of early testing, Intel desperately needs all the help it can get.  A dual core Z6xx series atom chip running on the company's new Oak Trail chipset was shown off in a prototype design by Taiwan's Compal Electronics.

The prototype packed two CPU cores, running at 1.5 GHz.  It also packed an Intel GMA600 GPU, which is essentially a rebranded PowerVR SGX535.

The new tablet was running Google Inc.'s (GOOG) popular Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" operating system, the second most used tablet OS in the world behind Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) iOS (found on the iPad and iPad 2).

In a limited set of tests, Tweakers.net, a Dutch hardware site benchmarked [translated] the new platform and compared it to rivals currently on the market with similarly clocked dual-core CPUs.  The picture wasn't pretty for Intel.

II. Slow

In the Caffeine 3 benchmark, the Oak Trail prototype scored a dismal 1562 points, well behind the Asus Eee Transformer Pad (Tegra 2 based; 6246 points) and the Samsung 10.1v Galaxy Tab (Hummingbird Gen. 2; 7194 points).  This was significant as Caffeine measures Java performance -- the language most Android apps are written in.  As such, the benchmark provides a key indicator of how fast apps will run on the tablet -- in Intel's case "very slow".

That result was confirmed by the Linpack benchmark, which gave a result at 9.4 MFLOPs, versus 36 MFLOPS for the Tegra 2.  Similarly the Quadrant benchmark gave a score of 1978, at the very bottom of the 2,000 to 2,500 that Android tablets regularly score.  Some Android Phones even score 2,000+. 

While these numbers aren't necessarily a bad thing for all apps (some of which are less demanding), it may mean that on Intel-based Android tablets you'll have to forgo highly demanding apps like the early crop of 3D shooter titles.

The Oak Trail tablet did show some promise, posting the best score (1500 ms) in the Sunspider benchmark, a full 376 ms faster than the fastest ARM-based Android, the Asus Eee Transformer Pad.  In other words, while Intel's platform may come up short in apps, it looks like it will handle the internet pretty well.

III. Hot

Unfortunately, two critical performance measures -- Flash performance and battery life -- were not tested.

The site did evaluate Oak Trail's temperature performance, writing [translated]:

The settings menu of the x86 port also showed how hot the Intel CPU in the tablet. In this model ranged between 60 and 65 degrees [Celsius], and that was quite obvious. The tablet on the outside felt warm, much warmer than previous Honeycomb Tablets we owned had.

Unfortunately the site did not produce any quantitative numbers to back its claims.  However, if the CPU is truly reaching 140-149 °F, that's a major issue as, at that temperature, heat conduction could make holding the case very uncomfortable (particularly given the tight casing in modern ultra-slender tablets).

IV. Hope for Intel?

There's hope on both the performance and temperature front for Intel.  It's thought that a major part of the gap in app performance may be due to optimizations in Android for the ARM architecture.  If Intel pushes hard enough, it may be able to get similar optimizations for x86 worked in.

The temperature is intimately tied to usage and clock speed, so there's no way of necessarily escaping that during times of heavy use.  However, Intel could always solve this problem by putting a small fan in its tablets.  While that might produce a "fatter" less seemly tablet, it would at least spare the user from discomfort.

And in the long term, the die shrink in Q4 2011 to 32 nm should reduce chip temperatures.

The early numbers do indicate, though, that Oak Trail and Atom-powered Android is a work in progress -- a picture that stands in sharp contrast to Intel's promise that Oak Trail would trash ARM designs in performance.  Once we get numbers on battery life we should be able to see exactly how far behind the platform is.

Notes:
The Tegra 2 is a dual-core Android by American-based NVIDIA Corp. (NVDA).  The processors are overclocked to around 1.5 GHz, in typical builds.



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RE: CaffeineMark 3.0 with ACER Iconia W500
By encia on 6/3/2011 11:46:50 PM , Rating: 2
Tweakers.net was using Java VM CaffeineMark 3.0 and JScript SunSpider benchmarks. Both middleware are not tied to an OS.

As for Android, I'm waiting for Bluestack i.e. Android runtime for MS Windows.


RE: CaffeineMark 3.0 with ACER Iconia W500
By Khato on 6/4/2011 12:32:27 AM , Rating: 1
No question that the benchmarks themselves aren't tied to the OS. But what do you think translates that non-OS specific code to something that a specific platform can run? That's the component that's causing the Oak Trail Atom tablet to perform abysmally, and as such, unless your tablet is subject to the same translation penalty then its scores are every bit as meaningless as the 75787(146105 embedded) caffeinemark 3.0 score of this sandy bridge computer.


RE: CaffeineMark 3.0 with ACER Iconia W500
By encia on 6/4/2011 12:58:00 AM , Rating: 2
Unlike ASUS Transformer and ACER Iconia A500 tablets, Intel Sandybridge devices are not running the same form factor i.e. show me 9-to-10 inch size tablets.

Why would one artificially cripple a benchmark?


RE: CaffeineMark 3.0 with ACER Iconia W500
By Khato on 6/4/2011 1:09:35 AM , Rating: 2
It's not an artificial crippling. Benchmarks are dependent upon the software they're run on. If you want to believe that OS implementation doesn't affect benchmark results, then please explain the performance gain going from Android 2.1 to 2.2 - http://www.anandtech.com/show/3782/a-taste-of-froy...

That JIT compiler that resulted in the huge performance gains doesn't exist in the x86 version of Android, because, ya know, compiling for ARM is different than compiling for x86. And no, they can't just pick up the great JIT compiler used in windows and put it into Android.


RE: CaffeineMark 3.0 with ACER Iconia W500
By encia on 6/4/2011 1:15:35 AM , Rating: 2
Tweakers.net also benchmarked a non-Android IOS 4.3 powered tablet i.e. Apple iPad 2.


RE: CaffeineMark 3.0 with ACER Iconia W500
By Khato on 6/4/2011 1:26:31 AM , Rating: 2
Which is another product with actual production quality software, so what?

Let's put it this way, what do you think that very same Atom tablet would score if running windows?


RE: CaffeineMark 3.0 with ACER Iconia W500
By encia on 6/4/2011 1:45:55 AM , Rating: 2
It's not my reasonability to post Intel Atom Windows 7 based tablet.

I do have my old ASUS Eee PC T101MT tablet with 1.8Ghz turbo/overclock.


RE: CaffeineMark 3.0 with ACER Iconia W500
By Khato on 6/4/2011 2:04:49 AM , Rating: 2
Nope, it's not. But you're the one that was comparing the performance of a windows tablet to those in the article and claiming a victory for the C-50. As well as the one saying that the benchmarks are not tied to an OS and asking why they'd be artificially crippled.

I'm simply stating the fact that the poor performance of the Oak Trail tablet on Android was purely due to the immature nature of the x86 port. And that both current windows performance and future Android performance once the x86 port has been properly turned would be roughly equal to the C-50, as is the case in most all benchmarks to date.


By encia on 6/4/2011 2:13:38 AM , Rating: 2
Go ahead and post Intel Atom Dual Core + Windows 7 scores.

If I double the CaffeineMark 3 score on my old Intel Atom tablet, it doesn't not reach the same 9000+ score.

Both benchmarks have poor multi-threaded CPU support i.e. 55 percent CPU usage(Task Manager) on my ACER W500.


By encia on 6/4/2011 3:13:30 AM , Rating: 2
It's PR damage for Intel, which damages X86 as a whole.


By encia on 6/4/2011 3:09:45 AM , Rating: 2
Ops, edit reasonability to responsibility.


By encia on 6/4/2011 1:03:38 AM , Rating: 2
Tweakers.net also benchmarked a non-Android IOS 4.3 powered tablet i.e. Apple iPad 2.


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