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The test
We visited Intel's offices in Santa Clara, California for a first crack at testing Bay Trail's performance. Although we're happy to have the chance to test and relay some initial performance information to you, please understand that the information you're about to see isn't quite like what you might normally find in one of our reviews.

Although Intel was willing to let us run any test we wished, we were faced with a number of practical constraints, including very limited testing time and a spotty Internet connection. Some of the comparative results you'll see below come from 64-bit executables in Windows 8, while the Bay Trail tablet we tested was running the 32-bit version of Windows 8.1 and could therefore run only 32-bit executables. We were faced with different OS versions on Android, as well. Some of our cross-platform, browser-based benchmarks are as influenced by the performance of the web browser software as they are by CPU speed, and we weren't able to use the same browser and revision everywhere, although we did try to stick to Chrome 27.0.1453.94 in Windows.

That said, we think the performance results below ought to be sufficient to give you a general sense of Bay Trail's competitive standing. Just be aware that the data aren't as neat and clean as what we'd put into graph form most of the time. We'll want to follow up with testing of production Bay Trail tablets in our our labs at a later date—and probably with better, more user-experience-focused benchmarks, as well.

Here's a look at the Bay Trail tablet we used for testing. This is an Intel reference design for 10" tablets, not something intended for production in exactly this form. The system has an Atom Z3770 processor inside, with clock speeds up to 2.4GHz with Burst. It also has 2GB of DDR3L-1066 memory. The display is ridiculously sumptuous, packing a 2560x1440 array of pixels into a 10" diagonal rectangle. I stared.

The tablet is fanless and similar in size, thickness, and weight to the current iPad. We used two of these test systems, one running Windows 8.1 32-bit and another running Android 4.2.2. The Win8.1 tablet was in pretty good shape for a pre-release device. We noticed a few quirks here and there, but it generally animated that near-four-megapixel display fluidly. The Android-based systems were more obviously in an early, pre-production state. They had some issues with touch responsiveness and the like, and Intel was very candid about the need for additional tuning before Bay Trail-based Android systems are ready for the market.

Quite honestly, I'd like to spend more time with one of these systems before offering a strong assessment of the general user experience. What I saw of them was good, but obviously marred by little hiccups here and there that wouldn't likely be an issue in a final, shipping product. I can say that a number of casual games and even some lightweight 3D games in Windows, like Torchlight 2, appear to run well on the Bay Trail reference tablet. That fact is vaguely amazing given where even full-sized Intel laptops were several years ago.

The results

First up is a pair of brower-based benchmarks that, with some caveats about software influencing performance, we can run across a host of different OSes.

As you can see, Bay Trail gets off to a very solid start, nearly cutting execution times in half compared to the prior-gen Clover Trail Atom Z2760. It outperforms all of the ARM-compatible SoCs we tested, including those based on alternative CPU architectures like Krait and Swift.

Also intriguing is the match-up between Bay Trail and the AMD "Kabini" A4-5000 SoC, which has four Jaguar cores clocked at 1.5GHz. The A4-5000 SoC alone has a TDP rating of 15W; we'd expect max power draw on an entire Bay Trail platform to be lower than that. Yet the Atom Z3770 prevails, with a slight performance edge over the Kabini-based laptop in both tests.

In these Windows-only applications, Bay Trail achieves something close to three times the CPU performance of Clover Trail overall. The new Atom SoC even challenges the low-end Ivy Bridge dual-core, the Core i3-3217U, in several cases. (It's much faster in AES encryption because Intel has disabled the Core i3's AES-NI support for product segmentation reasons.)

The new Atom's performance continues to match or exceed the AMD A4-5000's, as well.

In Cinebench, our most floating-point intensive test, Bay Trail more than doubles the single-threaded performance of its Clover Trail predecessor. The new Atom's per thread performance is also about half that of the Core i3-3217U—and remember, the Core i3 is a 17W chip with even higher total platform power draw. The Silvermont microarchitecture is putting in a tremendous showing.

Here's an Android-only graphics test that gives Bay Trail a chance to square off against Nvidia's Tegra 3 and Qualcomm's Snapdragon. What you need to know in order to understand these results is simple: both the Transformer Infinity and the Nexus 7 have 1920x1200 display resolutions, and they're running the test at that native res. The Bay Trail tablet is pushing 60% more pixels, at 2560x1440, yet it's still hitting the frame rate you see.

Now, a caveat: I'm pretty sure both the Nexus 7 and the Bay Trail system are hitting a vsync cap, limiting them to about 60 FPS, so we can't say too much about how they truly compare. Ah, Android...

The first set of 3DMark Ice Storm scores is just chaotic. I didn't lower the resolution on the Bay Trail tablet to match anything else, and I believe this test just runs at the native display resolution. Despite the handicap of having to push twice as many pixels as anything else, at least, the Bay Trail SoC scores reasonably well.

The "Unlimited" test is more what you want. It renders to a 720p off-screen buffer, providing a true cross-device comparison of performance. Unfortunately, this test is only built into the brand-new revision of 3DMark, which wasn't yet out for Windows when we tested. In this much better comparison, the Atom Z3770 proves to be substantially faster than the Nexus 7 and the iPad 4.