This is a guest post by the Tablet Guy, @IntelTabletGuy
Last week we saw the much anticipated launch of Windows 8, and consequently we finally get to see an amazing array of tablet, PC, and Ultrabook devices from Intel, our OEM partners, and Microsoft come to market.
But amidst all of the excitement, it’s fair to say that there is a degree of confusion among consumers. I’m constantly bombarded with question such as: What’s the difference between Windows RT and Windows 8? Do I have to sacrifice battery life and pay more to run the full version of Windows 8 on Intel architecture? So in what will likely be the first of a series of posts, I’d like to take a minute to answer some of these questions and dispel some commonly held myths in the industry.
Before diving into these, I should take a quick moment to explain the difference between Windows RT and Windows 8. There is plenty of press out there that compares these two in more detail, but essentially is boils down to the following: both Windows RT and Windows 8 run the new Windows UI (formerly called “Metro”) that is optimized for touch, but Windows 8 also supports all Windows desktop applications, drivers, and peripherals. Windows RT can only run applications that are available on the Windows Store and will have more limited device/peripheral compatibility (for example, see this list of HP printers where many models are not supported at all on Windows RT or are supported but with reduced functionality).
Myth#1: Windows RT on ARM delivers better battery life and smaller, lighter form factors
Since ARM-based CPUs have come from low power mobile phone origins, many people assume that they continue to have a large power advantage over Intel based CPU’s. However, with the latest generation of Intel Atom SOC’s (systems on chips) on 32nm, this power consumption gap has been close to eliminated, with the Intel SOC often times consuming even lower power. Additionally, the latest generation Intel Atom SOC fully supports Connected Standby on Windows 8, enabling weeks of standby battery life while still allowing you to resume to your desktop with all of your content already up-to-date in less than a second.
Looking at the Asus Vivo Tab lineup of Windows tablets on Asus’ website makes this point clear. The Asus Vivo Tab (running the full version of Windows 8 on the Intel Atom Z760, formerly codenamed “Clover Trail”) is spec’ed at 10.5 hours of battery life, compared to 9 hours for the Asus Vivo Tab RT (running Windows RT on an ARM processor) running the same workload. The Vivo Tab does have a slightly larger battery pack (30Wh vs. 25Wh), but even after normalizing for this, the two are within 5% of each other, and the Vivo Tab has a larger 11.6” screen that consumes more power.
Lastly, both of these devices are less than 9mm thick (thinner than both the Microsoft Surface and the latest iPad for comparison). And all Intel Atom-based Windows 8 tablets are fanless, allowing for thin, light, and silent devices that are perfect for on-the-go usage.
Myth#2: Tablets with Windows 8 on Intel cost much more than ARM-based WinRT devices
I still see this show up in the occasional press article, claiming that you’ll have to dish out $100’s of extra dollars to get an X86 (Intel architecture) tablet that runs the full version of Windows 8. The Asus Vivo Tab RT with 32GB of storage is listed for $599 at Best Buy, but their Intel Atom-based Vivo Tab Smart due later this year is expected to be $499. And the Intel Atom-based Acer Iconia W510 tablet with 64GB is listed today on Amazon at $599.
Perhaps most importantly, all of these Intel Atom-based tablets run the full version of Windows 8, meaning that in addition to the new Windows Store apps, you have full compatibility with the millions of Windows apps and peripherals that you use today, all of which is lost with Windows RT. A colleague of mine from another company recently asked me the following: if I can get a device that has the same battery life, fits in the same form factor, and supports all Windows desktop applications and peripherals at the same price as a Windows RT tablet, why would anyone buy Windows RT? Good question.
Myth#3: Intel Atom doesn’t deliver the performance needed for a great Windows 8 experience
The latest gen Intel Atom processor has been built from the ground up to deliver the performance needed for a great Windows 8 experience, thanks to two cores (with hyper-threading) on 32nm technology that can burst up to 1.8GHz. The integrated SOC includes hardware blocks that specialize in accelerating video content, letting you play back HD movies while still only sipping power. But just as importantly, Intel has invested considerably in optimizing the driver and software stacks for our products on Windows 8, delivering an experience that is fast, responsive, and optimized for touch. Check out what some of the early tech press are saying, or better yet, try one yourself at Best Buy. I bet you’ll be impressed.
Also, for users that demand best-in-class performance for heavy productivity, content creation, 3D gaming, etc., there are plenty of Intel Core-based tablets, convertibles, and Ultrabooks to choose from, all of which support the full version of Windows 8 as well with the performance and security you’d expect from Intel in a PC.
Myth#4: Windows 8 means Microsoft Surface
Microsoft is doing a great job marketing Windows 8 and their Surface tablets, but given that the messaging around these often times show up at the same time, appear in the same press headlines, etc., I’ve mistakenly seen consumers conclude that Microsoft Surface is Windows 8. While the Surface is a cool product and we at Intel are of course excited about the Surface Pro that runs the full version of Windows 8 on an Intel Core processor, the reality is that Surface is just one OEM’s instantiation of a Windows tablet, with Microsoft this time being the OEM.
At the Intel tablet launch event in September, seven OEM’s announced their Intel Atom based tablets, and several other designs have been announced since then. The full breadth of the Intel ecosystem with its OEM partners enables a degree of consumer choice that isn’t possible otherwise, with OEM’s offering features not available on Surface alone, such as 11.6″ screens, detachable keyboards that will work on your lap, styluses for document editing, etc.
So in summary, Intel Atom-based tablets running Windows 8 offer a truly no compromise experience: enabling best in class battery life in sleek form factors, supporting the always connected experience of Windows Connected Standby, supporting all of the Windows desktop applications that you use today (and that three year old printer you have on your desk…that will work too), all at very competitive price points. Here’s to an exciting holiday retail season in tech!