Intel's best shot at tablets hasn't arrived yet

With its Bay Trail processor, Intel may give ARM chip rivals something to worry about. But Bay Trail won't arrive in products until late this year at the earliest.

The HP Envy x2 is an attractive "detachable" that doubles as a standalone tablet. The problem is the Intel silicon inside.
The HP Envy x2 is an attractive "detachable" that doubles as a standalone tablet. The problem is the Intel silicon inside. Sarah Tew/CNET

Intel won't have its best shot at mobile salvation until late this year. Let's hope that's not too late.

As of today, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Dell, Samsung, and Acer, among others, are all shipping high-profile Windows 8 tablets and hybrids with Intel's "Clover Trail" Atom processor.

And all are billed as running "all your favorite Windows applications."

The problem is that Atom still isn't up to the task, as CNET Reviews and many other reviewers have pointed out.

In short, it's Netbook deja vu all over again. Atom-based Netbooks were never good at Windows 7 multitasking but very good at constantly reminding you that the silicon was slow. (I know; I had one of the "faster" dual-core HP Netbooks.)

Ditto for Windows 8 desktop mode.

So, will Intel be able to get beyond the Netbook? Bay Trail, Intel's first mobile chip to tap its 3D transistor tech, just might get the company there.

Bay Trail is a faster out-of-order design, just like Intel's mainstream Core processors, and uses a fast Intel graphics chip, also like its mainstream cousins.

In other words, this is a very different creature from the Atom chip that's been around since 2008.

And Bay Trail will integrate 4 processing cores, a first for an Intel chip that's designed for tablets.

Maybe most importantly, it will (according to leaked slides) be just as battery friendly as the current Atom.

So, it has a lot going for it on paper. One thing that can't be divined, however, is whether Bay Trail will finally put the Netbook behind us.

Or whether Android tablets with Bay Trail will prove that Intel's x86 architecture is inherently faster than the newest ARM chips from Nvidia and Qualcomm.

Whatever happens, Bay Trail looks like Intel's best chance for mobile salvation, and it can't arrive too soon.

Is a Lenovo Android tablet in the offing packing an Intel Bay Trail processor?
Is a Lenovo Android tablet in the offing packing an Intel Bay Trail processor? Lenovo
About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

ARTICLE DISCUSSION

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Don't Miss
Hot Products
Trending on CNET

Hot on CNET

Saving your life at speed and in style

Volvo have been responsible for some of the greatest advancements in car safety. We list off the top ways they've kept you safe today, even if you don't drive one.