Print 90 comment(s) - last by EasyC.. on Jun 6 at 11:39 AM

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.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: CPU != Tablet temperature
By Samus on 6/4/2011 1:59:57 PM , Rating: 2
Yet, the worlds top 10 super computers all use RISC...

Yea, x86 is just a killer server chip.

Listen, the only reason people use x86 is because they are forced too. If you had a version of Windows compiled and optimized for RISC, much like the current version of Windows compiled and optimized for x86, I can guarantee at every performance/watt level, the RISC version would be superior in EVERYTHING but encoding\decoding as Intel's branch prediction units are far superior to everyone elses, even AMD's. This has nothing to do with x86, it has to do with Intel's engineering and R&D budget.

I can't believe you are actually disagreeing RISC is superior to CISC. It boggles my mind.

RE: CPU != Tablet temperature
By k20boy on 6/4/2011 3:08:59 PM , Rating: 2
You are exactly right. Intel's R&D has made the RISC vs. CISC debate extinct. Their design decisions, extensions to the x86 instruction set and superior process node have more than made up for any inherent deficiencies in the CISC model.

You said:
Yet, the worlds top 10 super computers all use RISC...

This may be true of single monolithic systems but that is not the way supercomputers are built today. Most use some sort of clustering. Also, I said server, not super computer, there is a large difference. Just look at any of the articles on Anandtech looking at server performance and you will see that x86 is king. Also, if I was talking about clusters or supercomputers I would point you to the Top 500 list of supercomputers running the High Performance Linpak: Notice how most of the systems use x86 CPUs and usually use GPUs as well.

Yes, THEORETICALLY, RISC is superior to CISC. Intel, however, has made this theoretical argument unimportant in practical implementations. Obviously, if one could design from the ground up and not worry about legacy software support, RISC would be the way to go (actually probably something like EPIC would be even better) and Intel would still be able to make further inroads than they have today. This is just not the way the world works and Intel has designed itself out of its problem.

RE: CPU != Tablet temperature
By Targon on 6/4/2011 4:48:05 PM , Rating: 2
It isn't just Intel, the real key is in the overall system architecture, not just CPU design. As system complexity increases, the value of CISC increases as well, while code at a very low level will favor RISC. Think about that for a moment. Yes, there is an increased need for code optimizations in the compilers with CISC, but when a single instruction will do EVERYTHING you need and behind the scenes is broken down into very neat RISC-like micro-ops, that eliminates the much of the debate about what is better.

While RISC does have the POTENTIAL to be faster, the increased code design effort generally will mean you never realize that potential.

"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein

Latest Headlines
Inspiron Laptops & 2-in-1 PCs
September 25, 2016, 9:00 AM
The Samsung Galaxy S7
September 14, 2016, 6:00 AM
Apple Watch 2 – Coming September 7th
September 3, 2016, 6:30 AM
Apple says “See you on the 7th.”
September 1, 2016, 6:30 AM

Most Popular ArticlesAre you ready for this ? HyperDrive Aircraft
September 24, 2016, 9:29 AM
Leaked – Samsung S8 is a Dream and a Dream 2
September 25, 2016, 8:00 AM
Yahoo Hacked - Change Your Passwords and Security Info ASAP!
September 23, 2016, 5:45 AM
A is for Apples
September 23, 2016, 5:32 AM
Walmart may get "Robot Shopping Carts?"
September 17, 2016, 6:01 AM

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki