ASUS and Toshiba have a problem. They both launched 8.9-inch 1KG dockable tablets in Q1 2015 and before they got them to market the processing platform was upgraded and a shiny new product appeared. Microsoft’s Surface 3 runs on the brand new Atom X7 processor and clearly there’s going to be a run of new products leading up to Computex and ‘back-to-school’ period that will use X5 and X7 Atom. Why on earth would anybody want an ‘old’ Baytrail-T based tablet now?
Microsoft’s Surface 3 runs on a new Atom X7 processor.
Everyone that has reviewed the Surface 3 so far has been fairly confident that it can be a laptop replacement. Actually it can’t until you buy the keyboard for it but in terms of performance it’s not bad. The issue is that the previous generation Atom arent that much slower. If you look closely at the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 (Windows version) you’ll see a product that makes the Surface 3 look way overpriced.
Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 with Windows
I’m using the Yoga Tablet 2 as the Surface 3 comparison for a number of reasons. It’s got a 1920×1200 10.1-inch (not 10.8-inch) IPS screen, a stand (continuously variable) and it weighs 629 grams which is just 7 grams more than the Surface 3. There’s 2 GB of RAM inside and a 1.3-1.8Ghz Baytrail-T processor. The battery is a huge 34 Wh which is 25% bigger than that in the Surface 3. Storage is small at 32GB (compared to 64Gb and much more usable space on the Surface 3.) The port choice is comparable although there’s only one micro-USB 2.0 port. It doesn’t have AC WiFi, it’s only a 32 bit version of Windows and there’s no digitizer layer.
In the USA there’s about $180 price difference. In Europe, where the Surface 3 is more expensive and the Yoga Tablet 2 is cheaper you’ll save yourself €250 and you’ll get the Bluetooth keyboard thrown in for the €349 total price saving around €380 over a base Surface 3 and keyboard. Half the price!
I do agree that the Surface 3 is unique and that nothing directly compares to it but if you’re looking at the entry-level model of the Surface 3 and are not interested in the digitizer then the Yoga Tablet 2 is the better value product.
I love the Yoga Tablet 2. The design is great, the screen pops and the keyboard is good (I had hands-on at MWC and CeBIT) and I like the battery hump because it’s a great way to hold the device. I’ve ordered it twice, and cancelled the order twice. I’m really close to buying one now just to compare in detail to the Surface 3 but you can see all the detail you need in this Notebookcheck review and I’m probably just looking for an excuse to buy it.
The other reason I won’t buy it now is because you’re going to see newer Atom X7 and X5-based tablets soon. While I don’t see much CPU and disk performance increases on a clock-for-clock basis we have to remember that the 14nm process used on the X5 and X7 frees up some Turbo Boost headroom. The Surface 3 can Turbo Boost to 2.4 Ghz meaning that Web activities are going to be noticeably quicker than on the classic 1.8 Ghz Atom Z3000-series. 4GB RAM is probably also worth waiting for…unless you need it now in which case there’s only one choice. The Surface 3 is unique when it comes to RAM and storage options and the excellent accessory range. Maybe we should stop comparing it to anything and just hope that it stimulates OEMs to launch a good range of competitors later this year.
When I was reviewing the last generation Intel Atom-based low-cost laptops and tablets there was one question that I got more than anything. “Can it run Minecraft?” The same question now applies to the Surface 3.
Can the Surface 3 run Minecraft?
The answer, on devices like the HP Stream 11, Acer E11 and ASUS X205 wasn’t very positive. At low settings you could get 30 FPS but there was a lot of stuttering. The Atom X7 processor, as found on the Microsoft Surface 3 not only has improved Turbo Boost clockrates but also has an improved GPU. In 3D Mark Ice Storm Unlimited tests I’m seeing a 50% improvement (based on other people’s benchmarks) over the 2014 generation mid-range processors and have already indicated that this might be enough to take it into Minecraft territory and that’s been confirmed by Sean Ong in a YouTube video that he’s posted. You’ll also see some Steam and Steam In-Home network streaming action in the video. (Update: I just found out that Steam In-Home Streaming supports Quick Sync which is part of the Atom X7 platform.)
The Surface 3 is never going to be the ultimate gaming machine but with this video I can see potential for some low-end desktop gaming and of course, great support for all the Windows Store games and that’s really going to help convince the target audience.
Pay attention mobile computing fan, because the Intel Atom X3, X5 and x7 are looking good! Intel have just released more details at MWC.
We heard about the new Intel Atom naming scheme last week and it was fairly clear that Intel would be using the new designations on the 14nm Cherry Trail range of processors. Those processors (Z8000-series) are actually going to slot into the x5 and x7 ranges with Sofia (C3000-series with integrated 3G and/or LTE) sitting in the Intel Atom x3 slot. While all ‘x’ ranges could include Windows products it’s the x5 and x7 that will interest us more as the Cherry Trail architecture leans towards more productive, feature-full tablets and 2-in-1s. Intel have announced that 6 partners have products coming in the first half of 2015.
Here’s a round-up of the product types that Intel are aiming at.
Intel has revealed today that Cherry Trail comes in three variants. The Z8700 series will fit into the x7 range as the performance option with Z8500 and Z8300 dropping into the middle-range.
It’s not clear if x7 will also include more features than x5 but if you look at the key features that Intel are highlighting on Cherry Trail it would make sense if x7 were to host them.
RealSense is going to appear in both R100 form (post-processed selective focus, special effects as seen in the Dell Venue 8 7000) and R200 with real-time depth imaging. Intel Pro WiDi is highlighted too which means business-class WiDi (with more security features) comes into the Atom range. True Key is a facial recognition security feature that we suspect is only enabled by RealSense. We’ll check that for you over the coming hours and days.
The x5/x7 block diagram shows us that we’re still going to be stuck with eMMC as the storage interface but there’s a new audio processor which should improve battery life on video playback as it does on Core M products. HDMI 1.4b (4K/30 fps) is supported as are internal displays of up to 2K resolution.
The GPU gets an upgrade to Generation 8 and it looks like we might be into smooth Minecraft territory…
Those performance figures were based on the following products:
One the unanswered questions is battery life and TDP. We should be able to track that information down for you at MWC where we’re expecting to get hands-on with one or two demo systems and maybe even a product from the vendors listed above. In the meantime, here’s the round-up slide for Intel Atom x5 and x7:
Intel are going to introduce the next generation of mobile processors under new Atom branding. Atom x3, x5 and x7 will be used to differentiate features bringing it in line with the way that Core processors are branded with i3, i5 and i7.
An infographic just released by Intel gives us an overview of the target markets for Atom and Core brands after the new products are introduced. Unfortunately there isn’t much detail available but we’ve uncovered a couple of snippets for you below.
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