In case you hadn’t heard, a whole bunch of Windows 8 tablets and hybrids are scheduled to be released next month. A lot of them will be based on Intel’s Atom Z2760 processor, otherwise known as Clover Trail. This tablet-focused chip isn’t a radical departure from the Medfield SoC that’s popped up in a handful of smartphones, but Intel has made a few tweaks with tablets in mind. The most notable tweak is the addition of a second Atom processor core.
The Z2760’s dual cores can scale as high as 1.8GHz in burst mode, which is just another way to say turbo. Architecturally, the cores are unchanged from previous Atom iterations. They’re fully x86-compliant, allowing Clover Trail devices to run the full-fat version of Windows 8 rather than its cut-down RT counterpart. Hyper-Threading is supported, of course.
Despite boasting dual cores, Clover Trail has a TDP of less than 2W. Intel says the chip also features a new power mode dubbed S0ix. This mode supports the Connected Standby feature in Windows 8, which allows applications to receive updates while the processor is idling in a low-power state. Intel claims devices based on the Z2760 will be able to last for three weeks in Connected Standby mode. They’re supposed to be capable of 10 hours of HD video playback, as well.
1080p video playback will be accelerated by Clover Trail’s integrated GPU, which is based on the PowerVR SGX545. This particular implementation is clocked at 533MHz, and it features an HDMI 1.3 output for external displays. The SGX545 was released nearly two years ago, and I’m curious to see how it fares in the sort of casual games likely to be played on Windows 8 tablets.
The Z2760’s memory controller supports dual channels of DDR2 memory at 800 MT/s. Device makers will be able to equip their systems with up to 2GB of RAM, and they can add solid-state storage via an eMMC interface. USB 2.0 connectivity is built into Clover Trail, too. The chip is fabricated using Intel’s older, 32-nm process technology, but the package still measures a minuscule 14 x 14 mm.
Acer, Asus, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Lenovo, LG, Samsung, and ZTE have all pledged to offer Windows 8 devices based on Clover Trail. 20 designs are purportedly in the pipeline; half of those are convertible hybrids, while the rest are standard slates. We can expect devices as thin as 8.5 mm and as light as 1.5 lbs, according to Intel.
Device makers have already shown off several systems equipped with the Z2760. Although prices haven’t been made official, it looks like Atom-based tablets may command a stiff premium over their ARM counterparts—and over netbooks based on existing Atom processors. Intel says the Z2760 isn’t substantially more expensive than previous Atom platforms, and it notes that there are other system components to consider. Most Clover Trail tablets will have fancy IPS touchscreens, solid-state storage, ultra-slim chassis, multiple cameras, accelerometers, and GPS—perks you won’t find in budget netbooks. Clover Trail systems will also come with the full version of Windows 8, which likely costs device makers more than WinRT. Whether consumers are willing to cough up the extra scratch for compatibility with x86 desktop apps remains to be seen.