Intel Clover Trail Atom Z2760 Tablet Performance Preview

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When you consider Intel's competitive position in the desktop and notebook PC markets, one simple word comes to mind, "dominance."  Conversely, when it comes to tablets and smartphones, the landscape couldn't be more different. Intel's chief competitor on the desktop and PC side of the equation is AMD and it's obvious Intel is killing it there. 

Intel's nemesis in tablets and smartphones? ARM, and ARM is killing it.  NVIDIA, Apple, Samsung, Motorola, Google, Lenovo, Toshiba are all building devices or silicon based on ARM technology and the list goes on... and on.  Recently, AMD even stepped up to the plate with ARM and rumors are that Apple is looking to possibly differentiate their Mac line-up with non-X86 architectures.  Talk about exciting times for big tech.  Microsoft also saw the writing on the wall and hedged a bet on ARM along with their age old WinTel design effort.  Interesting times indeed. But I digress...

Windows RT, also known as Windows 8 for ARM devices, launched a couple weeks ago. Today, we have the very first Intel-driven Windows 8 tablet device to hit our labs, powered by Intel's latest low power Clover Trail Atom Z2760 SoC (System on Chip).  The Atom Z2760 is a new dual core chip from Intel with integrated engines for graphics, HD video encode and decode and a low power DDR2 RAM controller.  Clover Trail, like Medfield for smartphones, marks Intel's latest effort to break into the exploding tablet market.  With Windows 8 finally launched, does Intel's latest Atom architecture have what it takes to compete and offer consumers a full X86 compatible solution to complement existing desktop and notebook devices?

Here we'll take an early look at Clover Trail's performance. Our test vehicle is none other than Samsung's new ATIV Smart PC 500T.

Samsung ATIV Smart PC 500T1C - Our Test Vehicle


The Samsung ATIV Smart PC 500T is a rather large, 11.6-inch tablet with a 16:9 aspect ratio for its display (1366X768 native res). This makes it feel and look very "wide" in the hand.  This is a good thing for media consumption but you may find it a little too big, depending on your personal preference. MSRP with a companion keyboard dock will by around $750 for the device, $650 for just the tablet and charger accessories.

We're going to leave a deep-dive into the Samsung tablet for our full review. Here, we'd like to explore a preliminary view of performance with the first Intel Clover Trail-powered Windows 8 Pro tablet we've gotten our hands on. Let's run down some quick specifics on Clover Trail and then get right down to business.

 Intel Atom Z2760 Dual Core SoC (Formerly Known As Clover Trail)
Specifications & Features
  • High-Performance Dual-Core Processor – The Intel Atom processor Z2760 is a dual-core, four-thread, up to 1.80 GHz processor featuring Intel® Burst Technology and Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology.
  • Intel® Burst Technology – Enables the processor to dynamically burst to higher performance, making it possible to provide on-demand, higher performance in small device form factors. 
  • Intel Hyper-Threading Technology – Intel Hyper-Threading Technology provides performance and support for multi-threaded applications, helping to deliver increased performance and system responsiveness in today's multitasking environments by enabling the processor to execute two instruction threads in parallel.
  • System-on-Chip (SoC) Process Technology – The Intel Atom Processor Z2760 uses 32nm process technology with second-generation high-k metal gate transistors.
  • Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator – Integrated graphics with up to 533 MHz graphics core frequency and hardware acceleration support for 1080p video encode and decode. 
  • Internal/External Display – Support for one internal MIPI-DSI or LVDS display in additional to one external HDMI* 1.3 display.
  • Integrated Memory Controller and LPDDR2 Support – An integrated 32-bit dual-channel memory controller offers fast memory read/write performance through efficient pre-fetching algorithms, low latency and high memory bandwidth. The Intel Atom Processor Z2760 includes support for LPDDR2, 800 MT/s data rates, up to 2 GB.
  • Storage – Embedded Multimedia Card 4.41 (eMMC 4.41).
  • Power Management – Uses low power idle standby states (S0ix) to support Microsoft* Connected Standby. 
  • Camera and Image Signal Processor (ISP) – Integrated ISP with support for a primary HD camera (up to 8MP) and secondary camera (up to 2.1MP).
  • Security – Secure Boot, with firmware-based Intel Platform Trust Technology (fTPM).
  • I/Os – GPIOs, USB 2.0, I2C, UART, SPI, SDIO 2.0, MIPI* DSI and MIPI* CSI.
  • Compact Co-PoP Package – A compact 14mm x 14mm design with support for LPDDR2 customer-owned package on package.
  • Platform Sensors – Support for GPS, accelerometer / compass combination, hardware sensor hub, ALS, SARS, and proximity and thermal sensors.

High Level Functional Blocks of Intel's Atom Z2760 SoC

Thermal images are of Clover Trail, Intel's 32nm SoC in active and standby states

The key take-aways here are that Clover Trail is built on Intel's 32nm process node.  The Atom Z2760 SoC is a highly integrated chip with 2D/3D graphics, a dedicated HD video encode/decode engine, dedicated IP sec engine, image signal processor, an audio engine and display control logic.  Considering the real estate that graphics, video and display consume on die, it's clear how important the visual experience is for the platform the chip is targeted to. 

Also, recall that Intel licensed a PowerVR SGX545 graphics core in Clover Trail as they did with Medfield for smartphones, although the graphics engine is still noted as "Integrated Intel HD Graphics." The SGX545 is one of the fastest integrated graphics cores on the market currently for tablets and smartphones, though it's out-classed by the SGX544 in Apple's A6X SoC and the newest iPad.

Power consumption and the aggressive power gating on chip for Clover Trail is impressive with a 1.7 Watt total TDP (Thermal Design Power).  Above, Intel shows thermal imaging of active and standby states in various blocks of Clover Trail.  In short, when idle or under-utilized, blocks are completely shut down.

What's a little surprising is that Clover Trail only supports low power DDR2 system memory instead of including support for DDR3. The USB and other general-purpose I/O is driven by eMMC technology. eMMC or Embedded Multimedia Card is essentially a variant of Flash SD Card technology, which has actually superseded it.  Most tablet designs (NVIDIA's Tegra 3 for example) currently employ eMMC but it would seem that the opportunity for a faster mSATA interface solution could have been considered, though time to market and other trade-offs are always at play in the semiconductor market.  Regardless, how this all translates to available system bandwidth and performance is something we'll explore next.

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JDiaz 2 years ago

Good preview, only one slightly misleading inference... The Medfield Z2460 uses the much older PowerVR SGX540, while the SGX545 is the same as used by Cedar Trail ATOM series for the GMA 3600 (400MHz) / 3650 (640MHz).

While the dual core Medfield coming out early next year, Z2580, is suppose to be using the SGX544MP2...

Driver support is still limited to 32bit and like the previous Cedar Trail systems it may not yet be fully optimized. For example, Cedar Trail only allowed DX 9.0c despite the rating for 10.1... So Clover Trail may be similarly limited for now...

Unlike Cedar Trail though, Intel supposedly includes both the hardware decoder and encoder for the GMA. For Cedar Trail they only included the decoder and up till now only Medfield had both. So there may be some potential for hardware accelerated video encoding for Clover Trail.

Dave_HH 2 years ago

JD, I was speaking more with respect to the lineage of Medfield and Clover Trail and the platforms they're targeted to. Not sure where I spoke to the graphics cores in each but I'm happy to adjust if something is unclear.

I do need to push Intel on what their graphics engine is capable of in terms of actual DX functionality.  So far I haven't been able to demonstrate anything in DX10.

JDiaz 2 years ago

Yeah, unless they can get the drivers better developed it's likely DX10.1 won't be a option for Clover Trail, anymore than it was for Cedar Trail and we'll only have 9.0c functionality (hopefully less buggy than it was on Cedar Trail)...

As to the adjustment... Quote, "Also, recall that Intel licensed a PowerVR SGX545 graphics core in Clover Trail as they did with Medfield for smartphones,"

The wording suggests the same GPU was licensed, you could either remove the SGX545 reference and leave PowerVR graphics core for a generic reference or add that the Medfield uses a similar SGX540 to not confuse anyone referencing the article for specs.

Also for the other part of the same paragraph...

"The SGX545 is one of the fastest integrated graphics cores on the market currently for tablets and smartphones, though it's out-classed by the SGX544 in Apple's A6X SoC and the newest iPad. "

It would be nice to make that a little clearer and point out that the one Apple is using is multiple GPU variant as the SGX544, like the SGX543 before it, is scalable up to quad and that's why it's more powerful.

While the SGX545 is single GPU only, but Intel clocked it much faster. So should get at least as much performance as the dual SGX543MP2 (200MHz) that the iPad 2 used, if not slightly better as it's clocked over twice as fast at 533MHz... Considering the SGX545 is suppose to be a little more powerful than the SGX543/SGX544 one to one and Imagination claims their PowerVR GPU's scale pretty well in both multiple arrangements and clock speed, and the benchmarks seems to bear that out so far.

ryuhou69 one year ago

so wheres part two that was meant to be a few days away....

alphaOri 2 years ago

quick correction on "The Samsung ATIV Smart PC 500T is a rather large, 10.1-inch tablet with a 16:9 aspect ratio"  Its a 11.6-inch screen. See specs here

Dave_HH 2 years ago

Arggh, corrected. Thanks!

digitaldd 2 years ago

I'm just praying that a Win 8 pro tablet with at least Core i3 class performance is available for under $800. If I'm lucky there will be like 1 model that meets that price-point and it will have a lot of drawbacks

moujack888 2 years ago

Hey guys. I'm hoping I can pick your brains on this one. I am in the process of acquiring tablets with Intel chipset for our executives and our business requires AutoCAD and Revit3D. Although they would not be using the full version and most likely be using the viewer, is it feasible for a light user to be able to use the latest Atom based processor? Other than viewing drafts, it would simply be basic administrative work. I'm curious as to how the latest Atom processor is compared to Core i3 performance. The Intel tablets by Samsung is nice, especially the Pro version. However, it weighs almost 2 lbs. Any help is appreciated.

JDiaz 2 years ago

The ATOM is still multiple times less powerful than the lowest end Core i3, though that may change next year with the 22nm update but for now don't expect too much.

The ATOM architecture hasn't changed much since it was first introduced about 5 years ago. Clover Trail is mainly just the best optimized version to date and it won't be till next year before they finally provide a major architectural update with the 22nm Valley View update.

So, If you want to run the desktop Autocad then you'll need something a bit more powerful than a ATOM offers right now. Though right now Windows 8 isn't yet supported, people are reporting crashes whenever trying to run any of Autocad's software on Windows 8. While of course there is no version that will yet run on RT.

Meaning, you'll have to wait till they update support or come out with a new version.

For basic usage though you can consider Autocad WS, a cloud-based CAD editor from Autodesk. It's already available for iOS and Android, as well as a web app version for your browser. The later version being what you can probably use now, as long as you have a compatible browser and it works with Google Docs.

moujack888 2 years ago

Hi JDiaz,

I really appreciate the clarification on this.  I assume the late Atom processor performance would be similar to what the Surface RT handles the ARMs processor?  It's a bit sluggish at times actually.

I am running Windows 8 Pro on my Intel Core i7 2nd Gen of my ThinkPad x220 Tablet.  Even this is a bit sluggish at times for some reason.  Perhaps I need to wait for the new drivers and BIOS optimized to work with Windows 8.

AutoCAD WS forum responded that they are not going to product a version for Windows 8 App anytime soon.  So I guess we are left without any options other than web and I personally is not a fan of the web apps since at times connectivity is difficult for people who travels frequently.

Thanks for all your help on this.

JDiaz 2 years ago

Yes, we're still looking at basically netbook range performance from these systems and also yes that drivers and apps on many systems still need to be better optimized for Windows 8.

Since Autocad WS does have a Android version, I'd suggest maybe seeing if it would work with Bluestack? Could be a workaround until Autocad gets around to actually giving Windows 8 support.

Some systems released later may also offer dual boot with Android, it's possible but someone just needs to develop the custom FW for it.

Anyway, while waiting on the final review... You could check out the review done by UMPCportal and some of the youtube videos on the Samsung ATIV Smart PC. Showcasing things like online Flash game performance, Photoshop CS6 actually running well enough for at least basic editing, some limited but still usable video editing capability, games like WoW (gets about 7-10 fps) and Red Alert 3 (it was mentioned but not shown). etc.

Dave_HH 2 years ago

moujack, for basic viewing and administrative requirements, I'd say these Atom-based designs could handle it but not for any real design work. Also, Core i3 performance would be much better and if I'm not mistaken there are a few Core i3-based Win 8 tablets coming to market, Acer for one I believe.

moujack888 2 years ago

Thanks Dave!

That's good to know.  I've saw some comparison between Core i3 and i5 performance vs. the latest AMD FX chipsets.  It seems like even the Core i3 can out perform the higher end of the FX models.  If that's true, then I have a good feeling about Core i3 as we are currently using FX-4100 for our AutoCAD work.


ryuhou69 one year ago

so wheres part two that was meant to be a few days away....

hp79 one year ago

"Clover Trail is barely breaking a sweat, playing back HD video with only about 25% CPU utilization"

I know it's already been a year, but you guys are wrong here. 25% CPU utilization in Windows Task Manager means you are maxing out one of the core. This means Atom is struggling pretty bad playing the video file.

You only have two physical cores, and you see it as 4 in Windows because of HyperThreading. You can think of HT as 10% bonus, but if your running a single thread app, then no matter what you do, it's only going to stress one core. If you see 50% utilization in task manager, that is pretty much stressing the CPU close to it's max (again, because two more extra cores that are not being utilized are from HT).

If you see the CPU usage at 25% for ONE core, only then you can say "no sweat!".

After using Samsung ATIV Smart PC with Atom z2760 for a year, I feel horrible with all these bugs and power drains. This really sucks, but I use it only in emergencies and for OneNote inking.

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