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Making sense of Intel’s new Bay Trail-Silvermont- & Haswell-based Celeron and Pentium chips

As new netbooks and tablets based on the latest generation of Intel processors trickle in, one thing is clear — Intel has overhauled its naming conventions for its products, and all the new chips promise all-day battery life.

The new chips comprise of two broad architectures – Haswell and Silvermont (Bay Trail).

The other big changes are the following —

First, unlike earlier, the main architecture, Haswell, is no longer confined to the ‘Core i’ series of chips.

Secondly, ‘Atom’ processors will no longer be targeted at netbooks or notebooks.

The result of these two changes is what has created the confusion that prevails in Intel’s naming system at present. The only way to explain the confusion simply is to say that two non-mainstream architectures – Pentium and Celeron – have been revived, but now as brands, and not as architectures.

Similarly Atom, which used to have a specific architecture, has now been converted into a brand.

So, it’s Core-i brand for mainstream notebooks, Pentium and Celeron (brands) for low power and low cost notebooks and netbooks, and Atom for tablets and mobiles.

Out of the above three broad brand segments, Atom will be based on the Silvermont (Bay Trail) architecture, while Core-i series will be based on the Haswell architecture.

In case you are not confused yet, Pentium and Celeron will be based on both Haswell and Silvermont. In other words, certain Pentium and Celeron chips will be based on Haswell, while others will be based on Silvermont.

As explained, Haswell is the ‘mainstream’ architecture that powers all the powerful Core-i chips, while Silvermont is the low-power, low-cost architecture that powers all the Atom (tablet and mobile) CPUs.

As a result, the Celeron/Pentium brands of chips will also be divided into low-power, low cost chips (based on Silvermont/Bay Trail) and medium-power, medium cost offerings based on Haswell.

Chip noArchitectureMax Power (W) Brand
 3560Y Haswell11.5 Pentium
 2955U Haswell15.0Celeron
 N3510 Bay Trail07.5Pentium
 N2810 Bay Trail07.5Celeron
 N2910 Bay Trail07.5 Celeron
 Z3770 Bay Trail4.0?Atom
 Z3770D Bay Trail4.0?Atom

The difference between Haswell and Silvermont (Bay Trail) chips is one of performance and power consumption. While Haswell-based Celeron and Pentium chips will consume 11.5-15 watts of power, Silvermont-based Celeron and Pentium chips will consume 4.3-7.5 watts of peak power.

In comparison, Silvermont-based Atom processors (now meant exclusively for tablets) will consume about 2-2.5 watts.

An example of Haswell-based Pentium processors are the 3556U and the lower power 3560Y, while Pentium N3510 is based on Silvermont (Bay Trail).
Similarly, Haswell-based Celeron processors include 2955U and Celeron 2980U. Examples of Silvermont-based Celerons include the N2805, the N2810 and the N2910.

Examples of Silvermont-based Atom processors include the Z3740, Atom Z3740D, Atom Z3770 and Atom Z3770D.

As you might have noticed, the names of the processors give a clue about the underlying architecture. Haswell-based parts do not have an alphabet (such as N or Z) preceding their names, and often have a ‘U’ at the end, signifying that they are low-voltage products. Similarly, all Silvermont products intended for notebooks and netbooks take the ‘N’ signifier at the beginning of their names whether they are named Pentium or Celeron, and all tablet oriented processors (now called Atom exclusively) take ‘Z’ in front of their names. A ‘Y’ is attached to the end of names of Haswell-based chips to signifiy that it’s even lower power than the ‘U’ series, and will be weaker than a corresponding ‘U’ processor.

As for performance difference between Silvermont-based Celeron/Pentium processors and Haswell-based ones, the verdict is not yet in, simply because of the paucity of benchmarking results for these new processors. As a result, it is premature to arrive at a battery-life vs performance comparison between these chips.

UPDATE – According to Geekbench 3 scores, the Asus Transformer Book (Atom Z3740) scores 2611, while the Dell Inspiron 3137 (Haswell-Celeron 2955U) scores only 2279.

One thing is clear, however, that the Silvermont Pentium- and Celeron-based netbooks and notebooks will be lighter and sleeker than their compatriots based on Haswell-based chips. They would weigh in the 1 to 1.2 kg range, while Haswell-based netbooks would weigh in the 1.4-1.5 kg range to account for the bigger batteries. Another point of difference is that the Haswell-based parts are priced around $135 and the Silvermont ones come cheaper in the $36 range.

As for the new N3000 series of Atom (Tablet) processors, they are reported to be about five times as energy efficient as the previous Atom chips while being twice as powerful. They have, as such, raised much expectations for Intel’s strong entry into the tablet market.

Some of the examples of models launched on the new platform are the the $380 Acer Aspire E1 (Pentium 3556U), Asus Transformer Book T100 (Atom Z3740), the Toshiba Satellite NB15t (Celeron N2810 / Silvermont), Gateway LT41P04u (Celeron N2805 / Silvermont), Acer C720 (Celeron 2955U / Haswell) and Dell Inspiron 3137 (Celeron 2955U). In terms of price, except for the Acer model, all the new offerings are priced in the $325-$385 (Rs 23,000-34,000) range.

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