Computing has taken a closer look at the forthcoming Bay Trail-coded Atom microprocessors from Intel, which finally look like the company is taking the mobile sector seriously.
Incorporated into a number of development and pre-production Android and Windows 8 tablet computers, we were able to run a few benchmarks on them and, with the Windows 8 tablets, to see how they performed playing some popular Windows 8 desktop games - Defense Grid and Torchlight II - purely in the interests of research.
For a start, the performance boost between Bay Trail and previous generation Clover Trail microprocessors was all too obvious in frame rates more than double that of the previous generation. While the older Clover Trail-based devices were barely able to play the games, the Bay Trail devices put in acceptable performances.
Meanwhile, in terms of the benchmarks, the Android tablet we played with also filed some decent figures, too - see Antutu benchmark result below.
Of course, these results were achieved with the top-of-the-range Intel Atom Z3770 devices and it remains to be seen how much that will cost and the kinds of devices it will be incorporated into, as well as the performance of more modestly priced parts - the kinds that £200 devices will be built around.
Intel's effort has been based on combining a "tick" and a "tock" all in one development cycle, according to Intel's Matt Dunford, Intel's worldwide chief benchmarking manager.
The "tick" involves the use of smaller size transistors, while the "tock" involves improving the architecture of the microprocessor. Intel typically does one, then the other (hence tick-tock), but with the latest Atoms it has combined the two in a bid to catch up with ARM-based products.
With the Bay Trails that we have seen, it looks like it has done so. However, ARM versus Intel is not just about pure technology, but a battle of business models, too - ARM's licensing versus Intel's proprietary business model.
So far, one of the key advantages of ARM's model is the plethora of devices that its licensees produce, which means that device makers can use the model that is precisely best for them; the choices from Intel are very much more limited.
It has also proved cheaper, with even the highest-end ARM devices - the Qualcomm Snapdragon S800 - costing between $40 and $50 per unit, but most devices coming in much lower.
The question now is whether Intel can bring itself to compete on price and, even then, whether it produces precisely the parts that device makers want.
Intel's focus on mobile can also be seen in its desktop Haswell i-series microprocessors, which have placed an emphasis on power efficiency over raw computing power - no doubt with an eye on increasing convergence between smartphone, mobile computer and workstation.
As such, though, there is very little incentive for a hardened gamer, for example, to consider buying a new workstation or gaming laptop - maybe just a new graphics card. Indeed, the desktop PC is the very market where depressed sales have already had an impact on Intel's bottom line and Intel's current strategy does not really address this.