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Tablets will be powered by dual-core 32 nm Clover Trail chip

Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Windows 8 is a hot topic.  The upcoming OS is not without controversy -- some bemoan its Metro user interface as the death of the traditional PC.  And others are troubled by allegations from the Mozilla Foundation and Google Inc. (GOOG) claiming Microsoft denied them access to certain APIs, in an effort to cripple their popular third-party browsers in Metro UI. 

On the other hand, many are singing praise for the upcoming platform.  Windows 8 is expected to offer excellent performancesupport for ARM processors, and a host of new features.  Love it or hate it, Windows 8 is inarguably the most anticipated software launch of 2012.

I. Intel Goes Hybrid Crazy

new report by CNET quotes a source close to the world's largest chipmaker, Intel Corp. (INTC) as saying that Windows 8 tablets powered by its chips will ship in November.  Reportedly the lineup will be heavy on hybrid form factors such as the eye catching "Yoga" design from Lenovo Group, Ltd. (HKG:0992). 

Apple CEO Tim Cook says hybrid tablets like the Yoga will disappoint [Image Source: Lenovo]

Apple, Inc. (AAPL) has scoffed at these part-tablet-part-laptop products.  Still, interest in this unique class of devices is high.

The report cites that of the "more than a dozen designs" and "more than 50 percent" will be sporting this alternative form factor.  It appears that Microsoft and Intel are hoping to use the utility of a built-in keyboard as a key differentiator to drive sales.

Intel Clover Trail
Intel's hybrids are expected to be slender and feature-rich. [Image Source: Intel]

The November launch Window will likely be causing Microsoft engineers more than a few extra gray hairs, given the tight development schedule for the ambitious new operating system.

The source comments, "The schedule is tight.  [Look] at what Windows is trying to achieve -- not only with a new OS, but a new OS that needs to run four to five architectures -- three ARM, Intel, and AMD."

(The "three ARM" part likely comes from subtle differences optimization-wise in processor from ARM chipmakers Qualcomm, Inc. (QCOM), NVIDIA Corp. (NVDA) and Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KSC:005930).)

II. Meet Clover Trail

To compete with the alliance of chipmakers led by ARM Holdings, Ltd. (LON:ARM) and Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD), Intel will be releasing a new chip -- code-named Clover Trail -- specifically targeting tablet computers.  Clover Trail is essentially a more-powerful dual-core version of Medfield, the 32 nm Intel Atom CPU that has started to pop up in a handful of smartphones by Lenovo, Lava, and other manufacturers.

Medfield gives a rough idea of what can be expected from Intel Clover Trail Windows 8 tablets -- middle of the road battery life and CPU performance.  "Middle of the road" is not necessarily where Intel wants to be, but it's actually much better than many expected, given its numerous power-efficiency-related delays in shipping a smartphone CPU. 
 
And while Intel isn't yet a leader in the smartphone and tablets niche, it looks to become a serious contender for the power and performance crown in 2013 when its 22 nm die-shrink and proprietary 3D FinFET transistor design permeate its mobile chip lineup.

Clover Trail
Clover Trail, a dual-core 32 nm system-on-a-chip, is expected to be Intel's Windows 8 tablet processor du jour.
[Image Source: Wallpapers on the Web]

The CNET report claims that a 22 nm successor is codenamed Bay Trail.  The sources indicate that Intel is more focused on beating ARM in performance than battery life, commenting, "It is a gigantic performer, with similar battery life to Clover Trail. It will also have a lot of security features built in and Infineon [3G/4G] silicon inside."

Intel also hopes to crank of graphics performance.  While the current generation Medfield and Clover Trail chips use on-die intellectual property graphics processing unit (IP-GPU) cores from the UK's Imagination Technologies Group plc (LON:IMG)  -- much like their ARM counterparts -- the next generation is expected to ditch the Imagination IP-GPUs in favor of a proprietary design.

Intel's crowning on-die GPU achievement to date has been its new 22 nm PC-aimed Ivy Bridge CPU.  While a bit behind AMD graphics-wise, Intel's strong power efficiency and CPU computing power help make Ivy Bridge the chip to beat in the enthusiast PC market, though it's facing danger from AMD in the popular budget space.

Much like Intel's smartphone push, don't be surprised if the tablet push is a bit softer than expected for 2012.  2013's Bay Trail (dual- to quad-core tablet chips) and Silvermont (single- to dual-core smartphone chips) are expected to see a much harder push from Intel, though.

Source: CNET



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RE: Design = FAIL!
By quiksilvr on 5/14/2012 1:07:40 PM , Rating: 3
The problem with that is pivot screens hinges add complexity and therefore increased chances for failure.

This is more of an experiment than anything. See how this works in real world applications. I agree having the keyboard facing down is kind of odd however most times you don't place a tablet on a flat surface like that. At that point you might as well go to laptop mode.


RE: Design = FAIL!
By geddarkstorm on 5/14/2012 1:05:31 PM , Rating: 2
How is it not a laptop in the first place (by any other name) if it's permanently stuck to a keyboard in a clamshell design?

As the OP says, that defeats the purpose of a tablet.


RE: Design = FAIL!
By Kyuu on 5/14/2012 2:34:35 PM , Rating: 5
"Tablets" were originally laptops where the screen flipped around and would lie flat against the keyboard.

Whatever the nomenclature, the fact that these have an attached hardware keyboard is a big plus for anyone who wants to use their "tablet" for anything more than basic web browsing and media consumption. I personally can't stand using a tablet without a bluetooth keyboard, or even better, one of those cases that has a keyboard and allows you to prop the tablet up so it stays upright rather than lying flat against your desk or whatever -- exactly the sort of functionality this design gives you except without having to have a separate case.

As long as they're light and thin enough not to be unwieldly, I much prefer this to a "true" tablet.

And obviously, the keyboard/trackpad are disabled when you have the it in an orientation for touch-screen usage, so hitting the keys/trackpad accidentally is a non-issue.


RE: Design = FAIL!
By geddarkstorm on 5/14/2012 4:00:09 PM , Rating: 2
Really, those you describe are called Tablet-PCs, not just tablets; and were even back before tablets as we know them were a thing. They also are not reverse foldable in this manner (as far as I've ever seen), and rather the screen rotates and then sits back down over the top of the keyboard to protect it.

I agree with you on all other points; that wasn't what this thread was about, just the disingenuous nature of calling what's clearly a lightweight laptop (with the electronics in the screen body instead of keyboard body) a tablet rather than what it is... a laptop. Can't allow companies to get away with confusing consumer definitions like that (oh hey Nvidia, but that's a different story).

Now if you can undock the screen from the keyboard, then it's an actual "tablet" tablet. And we'll definitely see more of those, for as you point out, you need a keyboard if you're going to do any truly productive work on a tablet (and those are the type I would personally buy).


RE: Design = FAIL!
By B3an on 5/14/2012 3:36:15 PM , Rating: 3
Thats just one of many examples. Theres will be loads of Win 8 tablets with detachable keyboard docks. The problem is theres no images of them yet so the Yoga is the only image that can be used here.

There wont even be any point in laptops after these things come out. Who would want a old standard laptop when you can have a tablet and laptop in one with no compromises? Many of them, like the Yoga and other tablets, will also likely have IPS displays! FINALLY. None of that TN junk often seen on laptops. Not only that but because the keyboard docks will likely contain another battery you'll also get extended battery life over a standard laptop. Unless someone needs a chunky i7 gaming laptop theres just no contest here, i think these Win 8 tablet hybrids will sell very well.


RE: Design = FAIL!
By geddarkstorm on 5/14/2012 3:53:46 PM , Rating: 2
Oh, undoubtedly they will have normal tablets where the keyboard is just a dock (e.g. ASUS Transformer), and this yoga may actually turn out to be that kind in the end. There's no problem or limitation with doing that.

We were just discussing the principle of the matter relating to the different usage models of a flat, touch screen device versus a clamshell with keyboard.


RE: Design = FAIL!
By tayb on 5/14/2012 1:46:51 PM , Rating: 2
In my experience the single hinge on swiveling screens just doesn't last very long. It has to hold the weight of the screen on a single hinge, the hinge has to be relatively small, and it gets a ton of usage. I've seen designs where the panel has a typical hinge design but the screen itself "flips" in the panel. Pretty neat but as you said it adds complexity.

I find this design extremely odd. I would never want my keyboard and touchpad hanging out unprotected like that. I would always accidentally press buttons and what not. Very odd.


RE: Design = FAIL!
By StevoLincolnite on 5/14/2012 3:14:39 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I've seen designs where the panel has a typical hinge design but the screen itself "flips" in the panel.


That would be the Dell Inspiron Duo.

I have a Convertible netbook with the single hinge, 2 years on it's still holding up just fine.

I think Gigabytes Netvertibles hinges have been tested tens of thousands of times so that they last, not sure how well they do in the consumers hands though.

But I do love my convertible netbook, lasts 10 hours, can watch 1080P video thanks to the broadcom crystal HD hardware video decoder. - Just wish the 10" 1366x768 TN panel was better.


RE: Design = FAIL!
By tayb on 5/14/2012 3:58:00 PM , Rating: 1
I had a Fujitsu T4220 when I was a freshman and college and I loved it. It was a convertible with a Wacom digitizer and I could swap out the optical for a modular battery. Great machine. But after 3 years of use the hinge had started to wear down and I could no longer lay in bed typing, the screen would just fall back. I was finished with all circuitry and math classes so I didn't need a tablet anymore and moved on to a Lenovo T series. That was a while ago so maybe hinges are better now but that was my experience.

/cool story bro


RE: Design = FAIL!
By Trisped on 5/14/2012 3:50:34 PM , Rating: 2
The HP tablets I have used have not shown any issues with constant use. They were used by professionals though, so there was no worry about people sitting on them or dropping them (though the two falls I saw resulted in cracked screens but not damaged pivots).

The HPs also had some really nice features (I posted them in another comment below).


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