Review: Beefed up GPU trumps Bay Trail
It’s been almost two years since we reviewed our first device based on Intel’s Bay Trail Atom System-on-Chop (SoC). Obviously, it’s time for a refresh, and it comes in the form of the eagerly anticipated Cherry Trail platform. To be more precise, Atom x5- and x7-series parts, codenamed Cherryview, are the new 14nm chips, while x3 branding is reserved for SoFIA chips.
Cherryview/Cherry Trail products are based on the Airmont microarchitecture, which isn’t entirely new. Airmont is a 14nm shrink of Silvermont, which is used in Bay Trail. There is really no need to explain why the move from 22nm to 14nm is important, especially in mobile chips; it enables Intel to reach for higher clocks while maintaining the same TDP/SDP as on slower, previous generation chips.
However, it’s important to distinguish between Airmont and Cherry Trail. Although the Airmont CPU is a die-shrink, it is just part of the new SoC package. The other part, which is entirely new, is the GPU.
Cherry Trail utilises the latest Intel GPU available, the Gen8 architecture employed in Broadwell processors. Bay Trail used Ivy Bridge graphics, and it had to make do with just 4 execution units (EUs). Cherry Trail-based Atom x5 and Atom x7 parts pack 12 to 16 EUs respectively. The Atom x7 Z8700 is best known as the SoC behind Microsoft’s Surface 3 tablet.
However, today we will be taking a look at Teclast's X98 Pro tablet, based on the Atom x5 Z8500 SoC, which is bound to end up in a lot more devices than the x7. In addition to the x5 Z8500, Intel currently offers the marginally slower Atom x5 Z8300, which we reviewed a month ago. Both chips have the same 1.44GHz base clock, but on Turbo the Z8500 can hit 2.24GHz, while its little brother maxes out at 1.84GHz. They are priced at $25 and $20 respectively, while the x7 Z8700 costs $35. These may not sound like big differences, but in the era of commoditised tablets, a $10-20 difference means a lot from a BoM perspective.
There aren’t that many Cherry Trail devices on the market right now. A number have been announced, but few are actually shipping. We managed to get our hands on an inexpensive iPad-esque tablet from Teclast, which features the new platform, and we suspect the rest of the spec will be quite similar on big-brand devices as well.
The Teclast X98 Pro is based on the Atom x5 Z8500, backed by 4GB of DDR3 RAM and 64GB of storage. The tablet ships as a dual-boot system, and it’s priced at $230 with free shipping (customs and tax may apply).
Before we get to the benchmarks, let’s take a closer look at the device.