Hands on with Intel’s Bay Trail

We check out Intel’s crop of low-end laptops and AIOs…

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Out in Intel’s advanced technologies demo booth at IDF was a jolly man and his Intel Celeron and Pentium based PCs. We had a few minutes to play with each of these systems and came away with a few interesting conclusions. Build quality issues aside, quad-core Bay Trail systems with at least 4 GBs of RAM are totally usable and provide an almost flawless Windows 8.1 user experience. The UI is smooth and fluid, icons and menus respond instantly, and overall Bay Trail provides a quality Windows experience. This comes in spite of the use of hard drives in both the AIO and laptop systems that we looked at.

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On the other hand we had a chance to play a laggy and borderline unusable Bay Trail-based laptop. This particular model from Acer employed a dual core Celeron branded version of Bay Trail, had two gigabytes of RAM, a 160 GB hard drive, and Windows 8.1 with Bing. Needless to say animations were slow, the time between when you touched the screen and the PC responded could be counted in seconds, and overall this system provided a deplorable Windows experience. How this system got approved by Microsoft, Intel, and the shameless OEM that built it is likely a sordid tale.

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Overall though I’ve come away pretty impressed with the time I got to spend with a few Bay Trail systems in the wild. At least at higher wattages in minimally binned forms Bay Trail can provide a usable Windows experience even when it’s handicapped by less than stellar supporting components. With Bay Trail’s replacement already on the horizon it’s a little late for me to begin singing its praises, but assuming Intel is able to get power consumption under control with the next generation then Intel can really start pushing back against the ongoing ARM-based entry-level laptop assault. If there’s one place that the ARM ecosystem believes that it can still beat Intel it’s power efficiency. Perhaps the jump to the 14nm process node and another iteration of Intel’s Atom core and SoC design methodology can change that.S|A

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Thomas Ryan is a freelance technology writer and photographer from Seattle, living in Austin. You can also find his work on SemiAccurate and PCWorld. He has a BA in Geography from the University of Washington with a minor in Urban Design and Planning and specializes in geospatial data science. If you have a hardware performance question or an interesting data set Thomas has you covered.