Intel’s latest Atom processors for tablets, notebooks, and other low power devices are here. The Microsoft Surface 3 is one of the first products to ship with an Intel Atom x7 chip based on Intel’s “Cherry Trail” design, but we should see more devices with Atom x5 and x7 processors in the coming months.

So what should we expect from these new Cherry Trail-powered computers?


First up, let’s talk about what Intel is promising to deliver. The company’s new chips are based on a 14nm design, compared with the 22nm process used in the “Bay Trail” chip they replace. That’s a 64 percent reduction in the die size which leads to more efficient chips.

According to Intel, if you compare a top-of-the-line Atom x7 chip with a top-of-the-line Atom Z3795 processor from a year or two ago, you’ll see up to 2X better performance in the GFXBench test and up to 50 percent higher scores in 3DMark’s IceStorm Unlimited test. Whichever test you prefer, that spells a big boost in OpenGL and DirectX graphics for better gaming on low-power devices.


How about video playback? Intel says Atom x5 and x7 chips should be able to handle H.265 video at 4K resolutions at 30 frames per second, 1080p H.265 videos at 120 frames per second, although there’s no mention of bitrate.

Not worried about H.265 yet? The H.264 codec is less demanding (although it’s also less efficient, which means you need larger file sizes for the same video quality). Intel says its new chips can play 4K videos at 60 frames per second when they’re encoded at up to 250 Mbps bitrates. 1080p videos can play at up to 240 frames per second.

As for encoding, the new Cherry Trail chips don’t even offer H.265 encoding, but they can encode 1080p H.264 videos at up to 120 frames per second.


Intel says the highest-performance Cherry Trail chips can also support tablets and notebooks with display resolutions up to 2560 x 1600 while outputting video via HDMI or WiDi to 4K displays.

Less powerful x5 chips can still handle 1920 x 1200 pixel displays and 1080p (as well as limited 4K) output to external displays.

All of the chips are 64-bit processors which support Windows and Android.

OK, enough about Intel’s promises. What about real-world performance? According to early benchmarks of the Microsoft Surface 3 with an Atom x7-8700 processor, the new chips really do outperform older Intel Atom Bay Trail and Moorefield processors in early benches. Chippy has a roundup at UMPC Portal.

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11 replies on “What Intel’s new Atom x5, x7 “Cherry Trail” chips can do”

  1. Been utilizing an i3 SP3 for almost a year now for everything I need to do including editing and producing video using movie maker. Which it did without any lag at all. I was quite pleased.

    I am an electrical engineering student and would not touch an apple computer with a ten foot pole. Although I would love to try OS X (or whatever the current version is) on a hackintosh… Windows 8 has had varying reliability issues for me since day one and I can see why people switch over to Apple computers.

    I will be getting this new Surface 3 for my 26 year old little sister who is an art student. I am anxious to see the benchmarks because she needs to use Adobe Illustrator and such. Although these are only available for pre-order, Best Buy already has them on display to play with in the store a month before they ship to customers which is helpful. We went to Best Buy and used the Painter app and OneNote, both of which were perfectly responsive just like my i3. I did not have a chance to assess its responsiveness beyond those two apps unfortunately because we were in a hurry. I suppose I could install Illustrator on my SP3 and at least be able to determine whether it would definitely not work on her less powerful prospective device in the event the program bogged down my more powerful i3. I have never needed the added power of the i5 or i7… Dollar for dollar this line is the best set of portable computers in the history of humanity (unless you are a gamer or execute graphically intensive software).

    I also own an Ipad 2 which I keep in the bathroom now and use as reading material when on the John. I call it a PoopPad… or more accurately an Ipoop.

  2. So how would surface 3 intel chip compare with my dell venue 11’s intel core i3 4020y?

    1. Considering the price, you’re better off comparing it to the surface pro 3. You can get 2 Surface 3 for the price of the the Dell Venue 11 pro with the core i3.
      The core i3 has a slight edge (better single-threaded performance and GPU), but the surface 3 has a significant edge in battery life depending on what you’re doing, otherwise, the feature sets are remarkably similar.

      1. I have a dell venue 11 pro I got for $600 but been having BSODs, something is wrong with memory, ram, or motherboard.
        Going to be getting a MacBook pro for college anyways (I have to choose from a list), but surface 3 looks like nice option for a tablet. I could get a cheaper windows tablet but wouldn’t have the build quality or aspect ratio of surface 3.

        1. That model isn’t sold by Dell any more, the only places I can find it online are asking $1100+ for it. Considering the Surface 3 is the first announced tablet offering the Cherry Trail SoC, it’s going to be a bit pricier. The reasons for me to consider Surface 3 is Cherry Trail, full size USB port and Stylus support. Your reasons may vary.

  3. HDMI 4K support is nice, but it’s still flat out embarrassing for the HDMI standards group that it is taking so long to get HDMI 2 products to market.

    1. Unfortunately for you, CPU power isn’t what Intel needed to improve in it’s Atom line, that went to it’s GPU. It needed better a GPU to compete with ARM so they basically used it’s die shrink to buff the GPU among other things.

  4. Really need one of these for a custom-built NAS, might finally have the horsepower required to transcode with Plex.

  5. Wondering what the price diff between these and the current baytrail cpus will be for manufacturers – if its too much we might not see these at an affordable price for another year or so

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