Is Intel's Clover Trail SoC a "bloated nightmare?"



Posted by Trent Nouveau


Intel recently showcased a number of Windows 8 tablets powered by the Atom SoC Z2760,  aka "Clover Trail." 

As we've previously discussed on TG Daily, Santa Clara faces an uphill battle in the lucrative mobile space as it attempts to compete against low-power sipping RISC-based chips designed by ARM that currently dominate the smartphone and tablet markets.



Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like Clover Trail will be helping Intel's mobile campaign anytime soon, at least not according to Silicon Valley tech guru Charlie Charlie Demerjian. 



"Clover Trail is massive, so big that it is not economically viable in the markets that [Intel] is fighting for," Demerjian wrote in an analysis posted on SemiAccurate.



"That promise from the last financial analyst day of good margins on Atom in the phone/tablet market would go up in smoke if Intel released the die size, and they know it. Intel can't compete in tablets and phones."



According to Demerjian, Intel is on its third-generation Atom DX hardware, but still can't get it working properly. As such, Clover Trail is DX9, "while the competition is all DX10 or DX11 and has been for years."



Demerjian also reported that Clover Trail runs Windows 8 at "barely tolerable speeds" - even with the massive "hardware hacks" Intel allegedly put in place to fake performance. 



"Bloat the die size, add in vastly more DRAM and storage because Windows needs at least 10x what Android does, and suck far more power to do so, and this is somehow a viable product?" he asked rhetorically.

 "[Seriously], you need a bigger battery to simply attain parity on power driving up the BoM cost yet more."



In addition, says Demerjian, Clover Trail is a "locked down" nightmare, as it shuts out Linux and supports a locked bootloader as per Microsoft's specifications. 



"Intel could have stopped this monstrosity, but didn't even tepidly condemn it. Internally, they know it will fail, SemiAccurate has seen their sales estimates last summer, but wouldn't do anything to make the devices bearing it even marginally palatable.



"[Simply put], Intel does not want to sell Clover Trails because of what it will do to their margins - they are desperately afraid of it. It has neither the CPU performance of the smaller die Core iSomethingmeaningless nor the power savings of ARM CPUs. It is vastly more expensive to manufacture and no one wants it," he added.