According to Strategy Analytics, Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) is now the world's second largest vendor of tablet applications processors. Though Intel has had to pay a hefty price to gain the kind of share that it did with its current product lineup, the fact is that the company is now a reputable, established vendor of tablet processors for both the Windows and Android mobile platforms.

As investors look ahead to what Intel could potentially do in the tablet space during 2015, it's important to try to get a handle on how competitive the solutions are that Intel will bring to market in that timeframe.

Though Intel was incredibly light on technical details, the company gave some rough performance details of its next-generation tablet product, code-named Cherry Trail, in a technical session at its annual developer forum in San Francisco.

Let's look at how it could potentially stack up.

The graphics performance question
In Intel's presentation, the company showed the following slide:

Source: Intel.

Intel claims that the upcoming "Next-gen Intel Atom SoC" (i.e., Cherry Trail) scores roughly twice as the Atom Z3775. Some digging reveals that there isn't actually a GFXBench 2.7 Egypt HD Offscreen test, but there is a GFXBench 2.5 Egypt HD Offscreen test.

Now, it's also nearly impossible to find results for GFXBench 2.5 Egypt HD Offscreen for the Atom Z3775, which is an updated Z3770, but AnandTech does have the numbers for a pre-release Z3770. The Z3775 features a graphics processor clocked about 16.7% higher, so for the sake of this comparison, I'm going to take the Z3770 number from AnandTech, add 16.7%, and then double it.

With that mind, let's see how our hypothetical Cherry Trail compares with Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) A7 system-on-chip as well as Qualcomm's (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon 800.


GFXBench 2.5 – Egypt HD (Offscreen)

Snapdragon 800


Atom Z3770


Cherry Trail hypothetical


Apple A7


Source: AnandTech, Intel.

Had Cherry Trail been a 2014 product, it would look extremely competitive, but given that Intel has indicated that CEO Brian Krzanich has indicated that Cherry Trail is an early 2015 product, the potential competitive situation isn't as clear.

How about CPU performance?
As I wrote about back in January, it looks as though Cherry Trail will offer a modest bump in CPU clock speeds over the top Bay Trail parts (from 2.4 GHz to 2.7 GHz) and is likely to include modest increases in performance-per-clock. If Intel's "ticks" are anything to go on, the performance boost per clock should be on the order of 5% (though with the Atom core, Intel might be more aggressive in picking low-hanging fruit, meaning a greater increase).

Nevertheless, the Silvermont core found inside Bay Trail was a solid performer, so a clock-boosted, slightly improved Silvermont core should, in a quad-core configuration, be enough to be competitive in much of the tablet market.

In fact, my guess is that the Airmont core found inside Cherry Trail will spend most of its life fighting 20-nanometer Cortex A57 class processors from ARM Holdings (NASDAQ:ARMH) at between 1.9 GHz (as seen in Samsung's Exynos 5433) and 2 GHz (which is what Qualcomm claims its Cortex A57s will clock in at in the Snapdragon 810).

Looking at the Geekbench database (keep in mind that there's plenty of debate as to the validity of Geekbench), I'm going to compare an Intel Bay Trail (Z3775), the Samsung Exynos 5433, a hypothetical Snapdragon 810, and a hypothetical Cherry Trail based on the preceding assumptions.


Geekbench 3 (32-Bit Mode) Single-Core

Geekbench 3 (32-Bit Mode) Multi-Core

Atom Z3775



Exynos 5433 



Snapdragon 805 



Cherry Trail hypothetical



Snapdragon 810 hypothetical



Sources: Primate Labs, author estimates.

Note that the Exynos 5433 implements ARM's big.LITTLE and, as far as I understand, runs all eight cores in tandem to generate the multi-core score. I suspect a similar phenomenon to occur for the Snapdragon 810.

At any rate, my estimates for Cherry Trail are probably on the conservative side, but at this point, it looks like Cherry Trail is probably going to be reasonably competitive with its contemporaries in tablets, though I'm not expecting leadership performance by any means.

Foolish bottom line
If Cherry Trail is inexpensive to produce and does not carry any of the bill-of-materials problems that plagued its predecessor, Bay Trail, then it looks to be a worthy successor to Bay Trail in the mid-range and performance portion of the tablet market.

However, it is clear that, after running these estimates, there is a reason Intel only glossed over Cherry Trail in its investor meeting last year and touted its follow-on, Broxton, as a part that offers "leadership performance."

At any rate, it'll be interesting to see how the real deal performs when it hits the shelves early next year and whether Intel can make sure that, at a platform level, Cherry Trail is cost competitive in the markets that Intel is trying to serve with it.

Ashraf Eassa owns shares of ARM Holdings and Intel. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Intel and owns shares of Apple, Intel, and Qualcomm. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.