Print 13 comment(s) - last by ravyne.. on Jun 4 at 4:59 PM

Qualcomm is about to unleash a 1.2 GHz, dual-core chipset on the smart phone and netbook market.  (Source: Qualcomm)
Watch out x86, your power hungry days may be numbered

There's no secret why the ARM architecture has trounced the x86 architecture in the mobile arena.  The lowest Intel mobile processors (utilizing the Atom architecture) can get is 0.65 W (800 MHz Silverthorne, Atom Z Series), while ARM processors are typically well below half a watt in power consumption.

Overall, at similar clock speeds, the ARM architecture simply appears to hold certain power efficiency advantages.  The natural question becomes, if ARM can work such wonders in the power sensitive mobile arena, could it compete in the more computing-power sensitive netbook/notebook arena.

Qualcomm, one of the biggest ARM licensees, apparently believes the answer is "yes."  At Computex 2010 in Taiwan, Qualcomm unveiled its third-generation Mobile Station Modem MSM8260 and MSM8660 Snapdragon chipsets, with the option of dual-core ARM CPUs clocked at up to 1.2 GHz.

The MSM8260 supports HSPA+, a rising 3.5G technology being deployed by AT&T and T-Mobile.  The MSM8660 supports both HSPA+ and rival 1xEV-DO Rev. B tech, a 3.5G technology which will be utilized by Verizon and Sprint during their own 4G transition.  Support for these advanced standards makes the chipset ideally suited for making speedy next generation cell phones.

Among the other impressive features integrated on the chip include GPS, a GPU with 2D / 3D acceleration engines for Open GL ES 2.0 and Open VG 1.1, 1080p video encoding and decoding, a dedicated low-power audio engine, and support for 24-bit WXGA 1,280 x 800 pixel displays.  The GPU is likely sourced from AMD/ATI as past chipsets, such as the one used in the Nexus One, had a dedicated on-chip GPU die based on the z430 (ATI/AMD) design.

Thus far, no one has shown off any SnapDragon 1.2 GHz dual core smartphones or netbooks, but we can only hope and assume the industry's finest are toiling away to make some killer next generation devices.

Thus far, the Android platform has made heavy use of Qualcomm's Snapdragon arsenal, so don't be surprised if you see a dual-core Android smartphone storming onto the market sometime in the near future.  Let's just hope it has a 
very big battery or some smart switching technology to turn off the second core when not in use.

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RE: Big Battery
By weskurtz0081 on 6/1/2010 12:51:28 PM , Rating: 2
Yup, this is a 45nm part, the Snapdragon in the Nexus One is a 65nm part.

RE: Big Battery
By atlmann10 on 6/1/2010 2:51:24 PM , Rating: 1
if anyone wants to really do anything here they would drop it a minimum of 2 scale from 45nm. Intel is making desktop processors in that (dropped) form factor right now. So it would seem to me as demonstrated that it can be done and successfully. Why prep a new small device processor at 45nm when there in all reality is not anywhere near the advantage these smaller form factors would produce. That is also not to mention the reduction in power consumption and heat etc with the same scale if not higher one in the performance on all factors envelope!

RE: Big Battery
By Helbore on 6/1/2010 5:09:50 PM , Rating: 3
I doubt Qualcomm have the resources Intel have. It's one hell of a process to simply develop a working CPU at a smaller die size, let alone re-outfitting fabs to produce the new chips.

Intel have money dropping out of every orifice. They can throw resources at R&D. In fact, I think they have one of the largest budgets of any company for R&D work. They also have enoguh fabs to always have them in a constant cycle of upgrades as the develop a new die shrink.

Qualcomm, on the other hand, will have to make do with far more modest resources. a 22nm drop might occur eventually, but they will have to work their way down. 45nm may be as good as they can currently produce in reasonable volume.

RE: Big Battery
By fic2 on 6/1/2010 6:36:29 PM , Rating: 2
Does Qualcomm even have fabs? I would assume they are fabless. I would be pretty sure that the smallest scale work in the fab only companies is probably used up by the GPU companies (Nvidia and AmdTI). I would also bet they pay a premium for such sizes.

RE: Big Battery
By The0ne on 6/2/2010 12:25:13 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think they do, not one. Intel fabs are advance and reputable. Other companies don't have the experience and expertise that Intel has, in addition to what Hellbore said. Even their manufacturing processes are distinct.

RE: Big Battery
By ravyne on 6/4/2010 4:59:24 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, physical size actually begins to be a problem because the ARM cores are so small already -- In fact one of the reasons they have so much integrated on chip, aside from the target market of portable devices, is because the small processor alone is actually difficult to wire into a package that can be used in a device because there are too many I/O pads needed than can be placed on the coastline of the chip -- they'd have to (artificially) ad die-size back to the chip in order to have enough room.

If going to a smaller node doesn't save silicon area (the silicon itself is cheap, but price/yield is driven by how many units you can fit on a wafer) then its wiser to stick with a larger node that is cheaper to use (plenty of "gently used" 45nm fab equipment second-hand) and gain increased yield due to the maturity of the process.

That said, ARM has announced partnership with AMD's GlobalFoundries to port their IP cores to GF's smaller process -- I think 28nm, but may have been 32nm or 22nm -- next year or so.

RE: Big Battery
By Smartless on 6/1/2010 5:09:54 PM , Rating: 3
What never ceases to amaze me is the scale of the processor design market. Here we have large fabs like Intel pushing 22nm yet a smaller (i use that term very loosely) ones like Qualcomm can make a killer phone cpu at 65nm. I can't even begin to understand how they tailor these tiny devices to fit the needs of the platform much less compete with such a fast-moving market. I guess that's why I come here.

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