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Confessions of an Atom bigot: How I learned my hate for Intel's low-end chip was wrong

Gordon Mah Ung | May 5, 2015
As a power user, I treated Atom like a joke. Then I started biking to work, and even a Surface Pro 3 suddenly felt like a burden.

Looking forward to Cherry Trail

I never thought I'd write this, but I'm looking forward to Intel's next-gen Atom parts. The 14nm Atom X7 and X5 SoC wasn't expected to bring much to the table beyond better graphics, but our first tests of Surface 3 show it can deliver more than anyone expected. (For the record, I'm not sure I buy completely into the score the iPad Air 2 gets in the chart below. Other tests I've seen put the A8X ahead of, but a lot closer to, Bay Trail chips).

Among the other improvements Atom X7 will bring is more memory bandwidth. Bay Trail tablet chips are limited to dual-channel LPDDR3 at 1066MHz clocks. Atom X5/X7 supports LPDDR3 at 1,600MHz speeds. That will mostly aid graphics performance but will also help increase system responsiveness some what.

When I played with our Surface 3 review unit, the responsiveness over the Bay Trail tablet I'm using was impressive. For me, though, it's still too heavy and too big for an EDC PC. I'm hoping to see a 7-inch or 8-inch Cherry Trail unit with a good folding keyboard.

The only thing that could tear me away from this Atom tablet would be a mini-Surface--yes, even smaller than a Surface 3. A fellow dreamer named Nadir Aslam actually created this fantasy device: A Surface Phone, blending Surface productivity with phablet sizing. Provided the keyboard were full-sized and had decent travel, plus a full OS, I'd be all over it.

You've won, Atom. You haven't replaced any of my regular PCs, but you've allowed me to be productive on the go, turning this Atom bigot from hateful to grateful. 


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