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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:

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,, 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.

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: What else is new?
By Belard on 6/4/2011 12:37:27 AM , Rating: 2
If someone wants to build an x86 tablet, using an Atom or Tegra2 won't cut it compared to the current AMD Fusion which is (A) faster (B) cheaper (C) less heat (D) less power.

RE: What else is new?
By Khato on 6/4/2011 1:01:57 AM , Rating: 1
Much as I can understand why so many enjoy entertaining such delusions... While it's quite true that the AMD Fusion offerings are faster than the currently available Atoms, they by no means consume less power/generate less heat. Sorry, but it just isn't true. Laptops based on the C-50 idle anywhere from 5 to 10 watts, with full load consumption typically being around 20 watts. The typical E-350 implementation meanwhile ends up at around 10 watts idle and just shy of 30 watts at load. N550 based laptops are in the 4 to 8 watt idle range and 15 watt load... and who knows exactly what Oak Trail based netbooks will be like for power consumption/performance?

RE: What else is new?
By encia on 6/4/2011 1:24:41 AM , Rating: 2
AMD Z-01 APU says Hi.

My AMD C-50 (with Z-01's GPU 276Mhz clockspeed) is nowhere near 20 watts at full load. I use Belkin power meter.

RE: What else is new?
By Khato on 6/4/2011 1:37:02 AM , Rating: 1
Let's see, do I want to believe you, or what I've found to be the best laptop review site available? Not saying that the C-50 is bad or power hungry, just that it is higher power consumption than atom. (C-50 still bests it slightly in single-threaded performance, and easily in graphics/media.)

C-50 based Acer Iconia Tab W500 -

Atom N550 based Acer Aspire One D255 -

Oh, and keep in mind that the 'Z' series Atoms are far lower power consumption than the N550. More than easily keeping pace with the amusing Z-01 (which, by the way, is still crippled with the power-sucking M1 FCH last I heard.)

RE: What else is new?
By encia on 6/4/2011 1:57:13 AM , Rating: 2
Atom N550 based Acer Aspire One D255 uses a screen with 1024 x 600 pixels, while Acer Iconia W500 uses 1200 x 800 pixels.

Acer Iconia W500 was benchmarked with docking Keyboard+USB Hub+Pointer.

RE: What else is new?
By Khato on 6/4/2011 2:14:16 AM , Rating: 1
Your point being? Yes, when not under full load (aka, not everything connected and turned on) the power consumption goes down. Yes, there are other differences between the two machines other than the processor used. Yes, you can find both C-50 based and N550 based products that use more power...

But in terms of actual power consumption, the N550+NM10 combination is less than the C-50+M1.

RE: What else is new?
By encia on 6/4/2011 2:49:26 AM , Rating: 2
ACER W500 includes a touch screen while Acer Aspire One D255 does not.

RE: What else is new?
By encia on 6/4/2011 3:07:00 AM , Rating: 2
Against Notebookcheck's "It is no longer really enough for games" claims

Crysis 2 PC on AMD C-50 APU

RE: What else is new?
By Shadowmaster625 on 6/6/2011 9:39:29 AM , Rating: 2
18 watts under a furmark and prime95 is nearly meaningless. That has to be above any typical usage scenario, including the vast majority of gaming scenarios. When you have 80 SPs, there is no way around using a lot of power if you really want to.

RE: What else is new?
By dagamer34 on 6/6/2011 9:03:02 AM , Rating: 2
The ratings seen on CPUs are not for power draw, but heat dissipation. Do remember that.

RE: What else is new?
By encia on 6/4/2011 1:34:22 AM , Rating: 1
AMD Z-01 APU (renamed C-50 with 276Mhz GPU) has a max TDP of 5.9 watts. Normal AMD C-50 has 280Mhz GPU clockspeed.

AMD G-T40E APU has a max TDP of 6.4 watts.

Both AMD Z-01 and AMD G-T40E APUs includes dual core at 1Ghz and Radeon HD 6250M i.e. same as a normal AMD C-50.

Intel Atom Processor N550 has a max TDP of 8.4 watts.

RE: What else is new?
By Khato on 6/4/2011 1:52:46 AM , Rating: 1
And without a controller hub, the only I/O of either of those chips is memory, display, and one PCI-E x4 connection. As well, I've not read anything stating that the processor can actually operate without a controller hub... In which case you must add the 2.7-4.7W TDP of the Hudson M1 FCH to those figures. (TDP of the FCH is according to this chart - )

By comparison, that N550 (or the N570) has a TDP of 8.5W and gets coupled to the 2.1W TDP NM10. Or you could go with the Z670 with its 3W TDP, adding another 0.75 watts to the TDP for its SM35 chipset.

3.75W for the lowest power atom configuration compared to 8.6W for the Z-01.

RE: What else is new?
By encia on 6/4/2011 2:29:58 AM , Rating: 2
ACER Tablet W500's FCH doesn't match Anandtech's Brazos Hudson FCH feature set.

For example, my FCH has 1 active SATA port instead of 6 active SATA port.


PS; Doesn't include tablet specfic FCH.

RE: What else is new?
By encia on 6/4/2011 2:40:53 AM , Rating: 2
Intel Atom Processor Z670 has 1 CPU core, it's missing X64 ISA and supports DDR2-800.

RE: What else is new?
By Targon on 6/4/2011 4:59:37 PM , Rating: 2
You forget one critical thing, and that is what the overall system performance is like. Atom based machines feel very slow and feel like cheap crap. While I have not personally tested the new AMD Fusion based machines, what I have read indicates that they have a much better level of performance, and may even be worth using.

If temperatures on the Atom based machine are high, with poor performance, and the Fusion based machines are lower with better performance, which is better for the consumer?

“So far we have not seen a single Android device that does not infringe on our patents." -- Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith

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