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Meet Clover Trail, Intel's chip for mid-range Windows 8 tablets and hybrids

Loyd Case | Oct. 1, 2012
If you're looking for a single computing device that marries the easy-breezy touch control of a tablet with the meat-and-potatoes productivity of a laptop, look no further than Intel's new Clover Trail CPU platform. That was the lofty messaging Intel shared at a press event Thursday held in the Museum of Modern Art.

If you're looking for a single computing device that marries the easy-breezy touch control of a tablet with the meat-and-potatoes productivity of a laptop, look no further than Intel's new Clover Trail CPU platform. That was the lofty messaging Intel shared at a press event Thursday held in the Museum of Modern Art.

Clover Trail, of course, was discussed at the Intel Developer Forum earlier this month, but today marks the next-gen Atom platform's official coming out party. The stage act was thin on technical details and heavy on marketing spin and finger food, but if nothing else, PCWorld got to play with no fewer than eight Windows 8 hybrid devices running the new Intel Atom Z2760 processor, which runs up to 1.8GHz.

The Clover Trail chip is targeted at low-power-consumption Windows 8 devices that can double as both tablets and laptops. This hardware won't pack the performance punch of hybrids and full-on Ultrabooks running Core-class silicon, but the devices may be just what consumers and business people need for common productivity applications like Office.

"New low-power technology gives us the computing power, the flexibility, to be in both parts of Windows, and to put it in really cool, sexy devices," said Fredrik Hamberger, HP's Director of Consumer Product Marketing, at the event.

As with earlier iterations of the Atom processor platform, Clover Trail's major focus is on low power consumption, a key ingredient for any mobile device that needs to boast long battery life. A few features have been added to Clover Tail to improve application performance, but overall the CPU represents only an incremental advance over the previous generation Atom platform.

Clock speeds have increased while power usage has actually decreased. Also of note: The new CPU still uses a non-Intel PowerVR graphics processor, the SGX 544MP2. Intel tapped PowerVR for its Medfield SoC, which was targeted for smart phones thanks to the GPU's efficiency and rendering performance. Earlier Atom procesors in netbooks used limited versions of Intel graphics, and Intel will be using its own graphics core in future Atom SoCs.

In the service of improved power management, Clover Trail adds a pair of new power states that Intel calls S0i1 and S0i3. S0i1 is similar to the S0iX power state built into the higher performance Haswell processor. S0i1 is an "active" sleep state that takes over when a user stops interacting with his PC, but hasn't actually put the machine to sleep. In S0i1, the PC can resume almost instantaneously, giving users the impression that the system is active even while it was in a sleep state.

S0i3 is a connected standby state. In this state, the system can still wake up in milliseconds, but power consumption in this state is measured in microwatts (millionths of a watt.) The two new sleep states translates into longer battery life. Intel estimates standby battery life for a typical Z2720 tablet to be up to three weeks.

 

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