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[Click to enlarge] Qualcomm's roadmap shows dual Scorpion core chips coming in 2011.  (Source: Qualcomm via Anandtech)

[Click to enlarge] Qualcomm is also hoping to complete in 2011 a new core architecture, which it will produce at the 28 nm node.  (Source: Qualcomm via Anandtech)

[Click to enlarge] And it claims it will deliver between 2011 and 2013 a mobile GPU as powerful as that of the PS3 or Xbox 360.  (Source: Qualcomm via Anandtech)

[Click to enlarge] Qualcomm is very confident in its pricing.  (Source: Qualcomm via Anandtech)
Dual core Snapdragon also coming in 2011

Imagine a dual-core-powered phone with enough graphics processing might to power a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360.  That's precisely what some of the smartphone industry's biggest hardware players are promising.

Next year, NVIDIA will air its Tegra 2 system-on-a-chip which comes complete with a dual-core ARM9 and super-powered mobile GPU.  Not to be outdone, Qualcomm just announced its own plans for mobile hardware domination and they're shaping up to be equally impressive.

Qualcomm's Chip Plans for 2011

First up will be the pair of previously announced dual CPU core 45 nm system-on-a-chips.  These chips will launch in phones early next year.  Dubbed the MSM8260 and 8660, these system-on-a-chips are powered by the Adreno 205 GPU and two Scorpion cores clocked at 1.2 GHz.  The key difference between the two chip models is in mobile broadcast standards support.  The 8260 only supports HSPA+, while the 8660 supports HSPA+, CDMA2000 and 1xEV-DO Rev. B.  These chips have already been completed and sampled to hardware partners, so phones should be soon coming to market.

This week Qualcomm also disclosed that it would be moving to the 28 nm process node. The first SoC to be produced at the new node will be the MSM8960.  The new SoC won't just be a die shrink; it will also feature a new core design.  While the company refuses to hint at clock speeds, it will say the new chip will be 5 times as powerful as the original (single Scorpion core) SnapDragon, meaning that each core will be roughly 2.5 times as powerful as its predecessor.

The company also claims it can achieve all of that while operating at 75% of the current generation's power (though it was less specific about what kind of power measure and which core -- 45 nm or 65 nm -- it was comparing to).  This claim has been met with a bit of confusion and skepticism, but if it's as good as it sounds, Qualcomm should be good shape.

In the vague boasting department, Qualcomm also bragged that the 8960 would 4x as powerful graphically (as some nonspecific design).  The Adreno 205 is roughly twice as powerful as the original Adreno 200, so 4x the 200 would be twice the current 205's power.

Graphics as Powerful as a PS3 -- in the Palm of Your Hand

Some time in the 2011-2013 window, Qualcomm plans to air the Adreno 3xx which could be its crowning achievement -- if it pulls it off.  The GPU will be made for use with SoCs on the 28 nm node.  Qualcomm claims it will be graphically as powerful as an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3.  Of course, those console GPUs are paired with lots of graphics RAM so it seems unlikely that the true performance would match these next-gen consoles.

ide note: an Adreno GPU will power the upcoming PlayStation Phone.)

Nonetheless, if it can even match the processing power of these consoles, that could make for some impressive smartphone graphics.  The new GPU will support the upcoming OpenGL ES "Haiti", the successor to OpenGL ES 2.0.  It will also jump on the GPU computing bandwagon, adding support for OpenCL 1.1.  What good GPU computing on a smartphone would be seems questionable, but then again, several years back few could predict the growing uses of GPU computing in the PC/server sector today.

Qualcomm is also promising that it will outcompete competitors like NVIDIA in chip cost and size.  So far the company seems to have done quite well in the exploding Android market, so there's likely some merit to these claims.

The company is also developing dual-mode chips, which will support both 3G technologies and 4G (LTE).


To put this week's presentation by Qualcomm in perspective, it appears that some very powerful hardware is coming down the pipe.  One thing we see as a clear problem is that the amounts of memory found in current generation smartphones won't be capable of supporting these kinds of phones.  

If hardware partners can work together, to say, triple the memory of current Android models (1 GB for CPU, 512 MB for GPU), then we could have some mighty impressive products on our hands.  Otherwise Qualcomm, NVIDIA, and others miss overshooting on the processing power mark.

Equally important is the inherent limitations of size.  What Qualcomm and NVIDIA are pushing for is essentially a smartphone in the palm of your hand that's as powerful as a modern PC.  While that sounds great, input and interaction with modern smartphone operating systems -- Android, iOS, etc. is nowhere near as quick, efficient, and easy as on a PC.

New technologies and strategies are desperately needed here.  Otherwise, yet again, companies will be producing smartphones with a many-fold increase in power, but relatively little boost in actual substance.


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By bitterman0 on 11/19/2010 2:29:51 PM , Rating: 5
Smartphones are limited NOT by their CPU or GPU, but by their IO. Assume you have this fast GPU and large amount of fast VRAM in your smartphone which makes it go as fast as XBOX (nevermind whether the original or 360). So then what? Are you going to play your Halo on it? Surely, while the raw hardware (GPU and CPU) might be capable of doing so, there are other obstacles that prevent you from doing it -- namely, lack of efficient input and output. Unless you can hook up this Uberphone to a game controller/keyboard/mouse and 1080p panel, its power will go largely unrealized.

RE: Irrelevant
By Boze on 11/19/2010 2:31:17 PM , Rating: 3
Uh, actually I think they're gonna be more limited by their lack of large screen, quality input controls, and heat dissipation...

RE: Irrelevant
By omnicronx on 11/19/2010 2:48:57 PM , Rating: 3
I think you are missing the point..

The GPU in the Samsung Galaxy S for example can supposedly push around 90M triangles per second (or around 3x the iphone 4g and a little under half what the PS3 can supposedly push), but comes nowhere even close for the very reasons the OP stated. So its not like we are not almost already there in terms of GPU power, but there is absolutely no current mobile device that take advantage of said power.

RE: Irrelevant
By B3an on 11/20/2010 7:20:39 PM , Rating: 3
IO does not affect graphics. Or it dont have to. The reason why the GPU in phones like the Galaxy S is not fully used is simply because:
1. The Android development software to make a game that will really stress a GPU like this is just not there yet.
2. No one is going to make a game that only runs on the single fastest phone/GPU. It's not going to make enough money considering the development time and money needed to make that level of graphics.
3. Games with this level of graphics take a while to make and this type of hardware is still very new. The platform is still kinda new too and not fully matured yet.
Theres already some games on Android that have equal graphics but higher resolution than the Wii and original Xbox (Asphalt 5 for instance) but these atleast run on a handful of phones.
Forget games though, these GPU's could power some seriously cool looking 3D interfaces.

RE: Irrelevant
By MrTeal on 11/19/2010 2:45:22 PM , Rating: 3
It will be interesting to see what their metric is for claiming their mobile chip will be comparable to the PS3 or 360. Are they using FLOPs, or shader ops per second, etc? It's obviously easier to power a small phone screen than a 1080p display, so if you were considering a phone build of a popular game you might be able to get away with saying you have the same gaming power if it runs on the phone at the same frame rate, even if it's pushing less than 1/4 of the pixels.

RE: Irrelevant
By DanNeely on 11/19/2010 2:48:10 PM , Rating: 3
This is almost certainly the same snake oil first printed a month or two ago that stressed vertex/polygon performance equal to the PS3. What they're not mentioning is that vertex/polygon performance almost flatlined for several generations because texture/shading performance offered the largest gains. As a result the GeForce 5xxx and GT2xx series cards had almost equal poly performance despite the fact that in each of the 4 major version increments total performance doubled.

Since they're not going into any specifics on overall performance I assume that that shader/texture performance levels are on part with a high end 5xxx card and about 4x slower than the 78xx variant in the PS3.

OTOH when smartphone screens are closer to analog TV resolutions than 720p it might be able to polish the handful of pixels it does push to the same degree as the PS3. This is ofc assuming that they're not scaling the polygon performance level for the screen size when making the comparison in the first place.

RE: Irrelevant
By mcnabney on 11/19/2010 4:11:42 PM , Rating: 2
I could see this working out, but the original poster was correct that I/O needs to be drastically changed.

My solution is three devices.

1. Smartphone with high performance 1080p gaming power
2. Wireless controller(s) with all the same features as found in current consoles.
3. Wireless Headset that create a 1080p image for the wearer. Could even be 3D.

It could even do DLNA to current 1080p HDTVs when at home. Wireless HDMI or WiGig could certainly do the job and LTE connections on the smartphones allow sub-30ms latency. Game on!

RE: Irrelevant
By ekv on 11/20/2010 4:15:29 AM , Rating: 2
RE: Irrelevant
By mcnabney on 11/20/2010 11:41:57 AM , Rating: 2
Me likey!

RE: Irrelevant
By superPC on 11/20/2010 5:53:45 AM , Rating: 2
polygon performance hasn't increase? from GTX 285 to GTX 480 polygon performance has increase by more than two fold ( see here ).

RE: Irrelevant
By DanNeely on 11/20/2010 2:55:20 PM , Rating: 3
You need to work on your reading comprehension. What I said was that it was almost flatlined from the GF5xxx to the GF2xx series. Since I don't have ready access to the detailed performance breakdown at each level I picked that range because it was what was used to point out how the current generation's gains were a major departure from how things had been done in the past. Since the 78xx based GPU in the PS3 was in the middle of the range it was a valid comparison; while what happened between the 285 and the 480 is not.

The 280 was 150x faster on shading, but only 3x faster on geometry (texturing hardware got a big boost too but I don't have an actual numbers). Scaling with ATI was similar although prior to the 4xx series they had a decent (if virtually never used) edge over nVidia on geometry.

What finally happened was DX11's tessellation giving a big boost to geometry needs in the common API. This in turn was due to the shader and texturing performance levels of the cards getting high enough that the most readily apparent difference between what they could render in real time on a single card, and what took an hour a frame for one of Pixar renderfarm was that the latter had a much higher polygon count, not that it had higher AA levels/etc.

We probably aren't going to see shader performance flatline for several generations the way geometry did though because the more detailed meshes require more computing power to shade properly. I'm not certain if higher polygon counts will push texturing equally hard or not.

RE: Irrelevant
By DanNeely on 11/20/2010 2:59:24 PM , Rating: 2
Actually if anything I understated how big the real world performance gap is likely to be because I didn't have time to find the anandtech article and had underestimated how rapidly shaders had been improving during the period when geometry performance enhancements were sidelined. As the first round of mobile GPUs with geometry performance that's close their performance levels for everything else are almost certainly at the low end of the range. The only counterbalancing factor is that high DPI screens need less AA because the smaller pixels are less visible to the human eye.

RE: Irrelevant
By Funksultan on 11/19/2010 2:56:20 PM , Rating: 2
Unless you can hook up this Uberphone to a game controller/keyboard/mouse and 1080p panel, its power will go largely unrealized.

Yes, because bluetooth devices and HDMI out on phones is still impossi... er, wait a minute.

RE: Irrelevant
By bitterman0 on 11/19/2010 4:01:53 PM , Rating: 2
Well, to be honest I'm not saying that there are no smartphones in existence that have no HDMI port; there's one, or maybe even two. The point is that is has to become a mainstream, and as soon as that happens these mobile devices will have replaced some other market segment (HTPC comes to mind, but pretty much anything that is powered by Atom+ION). Worse still, those devices cease to be self-sufficient as they start relying on additional external (and not very portable) hardware in order to realize their potential.

It would seem that you've never actually had a chance to work with a BT keyboard or mouse. The truth is that BT is unsuitable for gaming because of reliability, speed and latency issues. So, back to the drawing board on this one.

RE: Irrelevant
By foolsgambit11 on 11/20/2010 12:02:55 AM , Rating: 3
I see you've never used a Playstation 3. All of the wireless peripherals are bluetooth. I'm not saying it'd be up to PC FPS twitch-gameplay, but for the most part, reliability, speed, and latency are perfectly acceptable. And since they were comparing the processor to a PS3 in the first place....

RE: Irrelevant
By semiconshawn on 11/20/2010 6:03:44 PM , Rating: 2
I game with a BT mouse all the time. No issues. Ever. Dead batteries aside. Plus the PS3 is all blue tooth. What are you talking about? If you bought a $20 keyboard and mouse combo that sux dont blame the tech.

RE: Irrelevant
By FITCamaro on 11/19/2010 3:29:12 PM , Rating: 2
I think its more the battery. Even with good controls, it's only going to last 30 minutes or so. Unless we get way better batteries.

RE: Irrelevant
By Solandri on 11/19/2010 8:25:24 PM , Rating: 4
Agreed. Raise your hand if you want to be able to play Halo on a 4-inch screen. Now raise your hand if you want to be able to still use your smartphone the next day if you forgot to put it on the charger overnight.

Given the limitations of data entry and screen size on smartphones, I think they have plenty of CPU/GPU right now. Maybe they could use a 2x improvement or so, but beyond that the capability will far exceed what 99% of people will ever do with their phones. I would much rather any further CPU/GPU improvements be directed towards reducing the power consumption so as to extend battery life.

RE: Irrelevant
By jabber on 11/22/2010 5:46:51 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah modern phones are a step backwards already with their 24 hours standby if you are lucky.

I had a look at a mates HTC Desire HD (whatever) and its so huge and heavy. But it still needs daily charging.

This new setup looks even more impractical, no matter how efficient they say it is. I'm sure they said that about all the previous chips too.

Maybe nice in a larger tablet or netbook but not in a phone.

RE: Irrelevant
By robinthakur on 11/22/2010 6:49:11 AM , Rating: 2
Lol, I can see this operating for a minute when disconnected from its power cable, like in Evangelion...! I would imagine this device would be better used in a portable gaming console like the PSP2 than in a phone for either Android or iPhone unless a certain class of device is mandated by Google/Apple which has gaming controls or if you coul discretely switch off the full power consumption of the GPU for most tasks. That is unless your phone would also function as your home games console, which is a neat idea in theory. As Android has proved, there's little point having an uber powerful graphics chip a la Samsung Galaxy S if most devs are limited by the lowest common denominator of the many fragmented specs out there. In that sense, Android suffers from the same issues Nokia has for a while i.e. some very powerful devices mixed in with a truck load of average ones all playing the same version of Puzzle Bobble.

RE: Irrelevant
By cmdrdredd on 11/19/2010 4:22:48 PM , Rating: 2
"Smartphones are limited NOT by their CPU or GPU, but by their IO."

Well, the integrated 16GB memory card in most phones is as fast if not faster than the HDD that comes with the Xbox360 or PS3.

"namely, lack of efficient input and output. Unless you can hook up this Uberphone to a game controller/keyboard/mouse and 1080p panel, its power will go largely unrealized."

What's to stop someone from building a phone that has a slider and a control scheme like the DS with a screen like the HTC EVO it wouldn't be bad. Also most new generation phones have mini HDMI. It would be simple to add Mini USB and have controller adapters if one wanted to output in HD to your TV.

You say "it's limited" but forget that the devices today are not built with this in mind. The devices of tomorrow may be.

RE: Irrelevant
By omnicronx on 11/19/2010 5:11:36 PM , Rating: 2
I can have a flash drive that can write 500MB/S, but if the interconnect between the drive and the other components can't handle that bandwidth, its not going to come even close to that kind of throughput.

His comments were also talking about i/o in general, not merely the storage device.

RE: Irrelevant
By Strunf on 11/22/2010 7:23:49 AM , Rating: 2
Both the PS3 and Xbox360 have system and video Ram that would put to dust any memory card...

RE: Irrelevant
By mlmiller1 on 11/19/2010 4:42:26 PM , Rating: 2
Just add a slim LED 1080p Projector to the phone. You know its coming for the laptops soon, phones to follow!

RE: Irrelevant
By drycrust3 on 11/20/2010 1:03:11 PM , Rating: 2
Are you going to play your Halo on it?

One of the biggest obstacles to advancing technology is to think in a straight line. Initially I agreed with you, but I have fallen into this trap so many times it is embarrassing.
Cellular data rates are dropping, tablet PCs are increasing in popularity, online "office suites" are improving in capability, LED bulbs are increasing in power, the man-machine interface is advancing so that you don't even need to touch the computer to input information, etc.
So yes, your comment will be true (although maybe not next year), you will play games like Halo on it. A game like Tetris, which is now "old fashioned" would take on a whole new meaning if your phone projected the blocks onto a wall and you moved them by standing up and moving your body so you rotate the parts and stack them as they fall like giant Tetris lumbs of polystyrene falling from the sky. No keyboard or joystick required.

RE: Irrelevant
By Motoman on 11/21/2010 1:09:46 PM , Rating: 3
To make any sense at all for real gaming of any kind, you'd have to have a fold-out phone or slider phone, which upon folding or sliding revealed a d-pad and usable buttons to play games with.

I have seen some d-pads on some phones...the original LG eNv comes to mind. It was meant for web browsing, but same thing.

Trying to do that on a touch-screen only phone will be pure fail. Not just because of the lack of precision with on-screen controls (like a d-pad) but also just because you'd be wasting screen space with said controls, and your fingers would be in the way of your game.

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