Final Words

Ultimately I don't know that this data really changes what we already knew about Clover Trail: it is a more power efficient platform than NVIDIA's Tegra 3. I summed up the power consumption advantage in the table below (I left out the GPU numbers since I'm not totally clear with what NVIDIA attaches to the GPU power rail on Tegra 3):

Power Consumption Comparison
  Surface RT W510 Surface RT (CPU) W510 (CPU)
Idle 3.182W 2.474W 70.2mW 36.4mW
Cold Boot 5.358W 3.280W 800mW 216mW
SunSpider 0.9.1 4.775W 3.704W 722mW 520mW
Kraken 4.738W 3.582W 829mW 564mW
RIABench 3.962W 3.294W 379mW 261mW
WebXPRT 4.617W 3.225W 663mW 412mW
TouchXPRT (Photo Enhance) 4.789W 3.793W 913mW 378mW
GPU Workload 5.395W 3.656W 1432mW 488mW

Across the board Intel manages a huge advantage over NVIDIA's Tegra 3. Again, this shouldn't be a surprise. Intel's 32nm SoC process offers a big advantage over TSMC's 40nm G used for NVIDIA's Cortex A9 cores (the rest of the SoC is built on LP, the whole chip uses TSMC's 40nm LPG), and there are also the architectural advantages that Atom offers over ARM's Cortex A9. As we've mentioned in both our Medfield and Clover Trail reviews: the x86 power myth has been busted. I think it's very telling that Intel didn't show up with an iPad for this comparison, although I will be trying to replicate this setup on my own with an iPad 4 to see if I can't make it happen without breaking too many devices. We've also just now received the first Qualcomm Krait based Windows RT tablets, which will make another interesting comparison point going forward.

Keeping in mind that this isn't Intel's best foot forward either, the coming years ahead should provide for some entertaining competition. In less than a year Intel will be shipping its first 22nm Atom in tablets, while NVIDIA will quickly toss Tegra 3 aside in favor of the Cortex A15 based 28nm Wayne (Tegra 4?) SoC in the first half of next year. Beating up on Surface RT today may be fun for Intel, but next year won't be quite as easy. The big unknown in all of this is of course what happens when Core gets below 10W. Intel already demonstrated Haswell at 8W - it wouldn't be too far fetched to assume that Intel is gunning for Swift/Cortex A15 with a Core based SoC next year.

Here's where it really gets tricky: Intel built the better SoC, but Microsoft built the better device - and that device happens to use Tegra 3. The days of Intel simply building a chip and putting it out in the world are long gone. As it first discovered with Apple, only through a close relationship with the OEM can Intel really deliver a compelling product. When left to their own devices, the OEMs don't always seem to build competitive devices. Even despite Intel's significant involvement in Acer's W510, the tablet showed up with an unusable trackpad, underperforming WiFi and stability issues. Clover Trail has the CPU performance I want from a tablet today, but I want Apple, Google or Microsoft to use it. I do have hope that the other players will wake up and get better, but for next year I feel like the tune won't be any different. Intel needs design wins among the big three to really make an impact in the tablet space.

The good news is Microsoft is already engaged with Surface Pro. It's safe to bet that there will be a Haswell version coming as well. Now Intel just needs an iPad and a Nexus win.

Wireless Web Browsing Battery Life Test
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  • runner50783 - Monday, December 24, 2012 - link

    This is why I don't care if you post your podcast on time : P, you guys are the best when it comes to technical analysis and reviews, you are the reference for the rest of the review sites, keep it up!

    Well, I guess graphics power may be the only advantage of tegra 3 over clover trail right now, and that may change with proper drivers too... Now it really makes little sense to have an RT based system, I feel bad for pulling the trigger on a Surface RT after playing with a Clover trail tablet, it was much faster on almost everything except games.
    Reply
  • designerfx - Tuesday, December 25, 2012 - link

    This is the first time in a long while that I've seen Anandtech declare that something which isn't accurately measured, is actually accurately measured and compared.

    I'm quite disappointed, honestly. 5th core on the Tegra is a significant part of what defines its power savings, and yet they're saying "Welp. It's about the same!".

    I'm really questioning this a lot, Anand.
    Reply
  • Deo Domuique - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    This is his yearly fat bonus by Intel :P

    As for us, just ignore it and move on.
    Reply
  • MrSpadge - Saturday, December 29, 2012 - link

    What the ...?! If there's currently no way to enable the 5th core in Win 8, what exactly are they supposed to do? I'm sure Anand would love to repeat these tests if any way to fix this was available.. but right now that's how both devices perform. Call Tegra 3 crippled on Win 8 if you want, as that's what it apears to be. Reply
  • Activate: AMD - Saturday, December 29, 2012 - link

    Whats the problem? They're comparing performance under the windows RT environment and Anand mentions on the very first page:

    "One last note: unlike under Android, NVIDIA doesn't use its 5th/companion core under Windows RT. Microsoft still doesn't support heterogeneous computing environments, so NVIDIA had to disable its companion core under Windows RT."

    The only thing thats disappointing here is your inability to comprehend whats being tested.
    Reply
  • Wolfpup - Thursday, January 03, 2013 - link

    That would improve idle performance, but this is a real world test for the time being, and even still-Atom is more powerful, and yet uses less power, AND of course because it's more powerful, finishes doing work faster.

    Even if that fifth core were supported, this is still quite nifty.

    The fact that I can, today, buy an actual x86 PC that can easily double as an iPad class ebook reader/light web browsing tablet is just amazing. (eInk's better, but you know what I mean).
    Reply
  • Alexvrb - Thursday, December 27, 2012 - link

    I'm not a huge fan of Tegra 3, but I wouldn't regret your Surface purchase too much. My dad has one, it's built better than any other tablet I've held. Plus Inte's solution is almost entirely unsatisfactory for 3D gaming. Intel is only using a single SGX 545 core. They clock it pretty high, but it isn't enough. The latest iPad uses a 4-core SGX 554 solution, and clocked right it seems to do pretty darn good on power too. Clocks aren't as high but it blows both the Tegra 3 and any ULV Atom out of the water.

    I'm not a huge fan of Apple either, but they generally use the most cutting-edge Imagination Technologies IP available. That might include Rogue (Series 6) in the next go around... Intel needs to get Series 6 in their chips ASAP.

    Oh, and graphics drivers? Intel? Good luck! If this was Nvidia or AMD I might have agreed with you.
    Reply
  • ssj3gohan - Monday, December 24, 2012 - link

    This is really pornographic power electronics stuff. I do this stuff every day with my ultra-power efficient computer projects, but I didn't know that Intel walked around with this kind of a setup to show transparently what they are doing with power consumption.

    Good work, Intel. Now go and apply your knowledge to desktop platforms as well, because I'm kicking your ass here. I have yet to come across a desktop platform that cannot be made at least 50% more power efficient just through power electronics hacks.
    Reply
  • madmilk - Monday, December 24, 2012 - link

    Did anyone honestly think Intel, with a hundred times the revenue of ARM, would let themselves be devoured?

    Intel will still trouble entering the mobile device market because of the ISA lock-in ARM enjoys. On the other hand, ARM at this moment does not stand a chance in the (micro)server market either, especially as Intel increases its server Atom line.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Monday, December 24, 2012 - link

    Yeah, I think Intel will do fine and remain the 900lb gorilla in the mobile arena as well. ARM has the lead now, but once Intel has its sights set on something vital to its interests it tends to destroy the competition. Reply

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