After Intel launched its low-power, low-cost Atom processors in 2008 the chip family sort of stagnated for a while. There wasn’t really that much difference between an Atom chip from 2009 and one from 2011 in terms of performance. Things changed with the introduction of Intel’s Bay Trail architecture in 2013.
Low-cost notebooks and tablets with Atom, Celeron, and Pentium chips based on Bay Trail technology offer long battery life and surprisingly capable performance.
Next year things could get even better with the introduction of Cherry Trail.
Intel says its Cherry Trail chips will be based on a 14nm process, which offers better efficiency than the 22nm process used to manufacture Bay Trail processors.
The new chips should also offer twice the 3D graphics performance. At the same time, they should use less power, or at least offer a better performance-per-watt ratio than today’s chips.
From here on out Intel plans to update its Atom processors once a year, much the way it does with its higher-end Core family of chips.
Intel had initially hoped to ship its first Cherry Trail chips by the end of 2014, but it looks like that release has been pushed back to 2015.
For now if you want an Android or Windows tablet with an affordable, low-power Intel chip your best bet is still get a model with a Bay Trail processor (or maybe a Moorefield chip if you’re looking at Android tablets). You’ll still get long battery life and graphics performance that rivals or bests what’s available from many ARM-based processors. It’s just that next year’s models will be even better.