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New wave of tablets with Intel Bay Trail chips will start at $99

Agam Shah | Sept. 12, 2013
Dozens of new tablets are expected out by year's end.

Aava Mobile's Bay Trail tablet with an 8.3-inch screen (2)
Aava Mobile's Bay Trail tablet with an 8.3-inch screen 

Dozens of tablets, some priced as low as US$99, are expected out by year's end running on new Intel Atom processors, which began shipping Wednesday.

Bay Trail represents a reboot for Intel in the tablet market after its previous tablet chips failed. Bay Trail will go up against ARM processors, which power the iPad, Samsung Galaxy, Google Nexus and other notable tablets. The company is trying to convince attendees at the Intel Developer Forum this week in San Francisco that it is starting anew with Bay Trail, and to dispel notions that its tablet chips are watered-down versions of power-hungry x86 PC chips.

The latest Atom Z3000 series processors are for tablets with screens sizes of 7 inches to 10 inches. The tablets will offer more than eight hours of battery life to users watching high-definition video and also weeks of standby power, thanks to new features in the Bay Trail chips, said Chris Walker, general manager of tablets at Intel's Mobile Communications Group, in an interview this week before the Intel Developer Forum opened in San Francisco.

Android tablets with the chips will chips will start at $99, said Intel CEO Brian Krzanich during an IDF keynote Tuesday. The first wave of tablets will have the Windows 8.1 OS, quad-core Atom Z3700 processors and start at around $350, with the less-expensive Android tablets appearing at the end of the year and running on either the quad-core chip or the dual-core Z3600 chips, which will only work with Android tablets.

The tablets could be as light as 400 grams and measure as little as 8 millimeters in thickness, Walker said before the show.

The Bay Trail tablets will also be more responsive, the company said. Applications will run twice as fast and graphics will be three times faster than on previous Intel Atom chips code-named Clover Trail, which shipped last September after IDF and went into 12 tablets from Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Acer and Lenovo.

Walker said the new tablet chips have been fundamentally redesigned for mobile devices and can beat ARM on CPU performance metrics, while being competitive on power consumption. Based on internal benchmarks, Intel said its Bay Trail chips are faster on CPU performance than Nvidia's Tegra 4 and Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800, which are the latest tablet chips based on ARM. However, Intel did not provide benchmarks on graphics performance compared ARM-based Nvidia Tegra 4 and Qualcomm's Snapdragon.

"It's the first new Atom architecture in five years," Walker said. "It helps understand the camera, the tuning, the sensors, the whole platform battery life."


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