Print 20 comment(s) - last by fteoath64.. on Feb 27 at 9:00 PM

Qualcomm is preparing its next generation Snapdragon chips, which will run at up to 2.5 GHz and pack up to four CPU cores (Snapdragon MSM7500 die pictured).  (Source: Semiconductor Blog)
Coming soon to a smart phone near you -- four cores

If you thought the dual-core Tegra 2 was impressive, wait until you get a load of the bombshell that Qualcomm, another top ARM processor maker, dropped at Mobile World Conference 2011.

I. I Want to go Fast

Qualcomm has announced its next generation Snapdragon architecture [press release].  The architecture finally drops the "Scorpion" core code-name held for two generations.  The new cores are dubbed "Krait", a named derived from a genus of venomous snake species that reside in Southeast Asia.

They are built on a 28 nm process and Qualcomm claims it will be shipping single core chips clocked at 2.5 GHz.  While you wrap your brain around what a near-desktop speed smart phone CPU might be like, get this -- the cores will be available in single, dual, and quad-core variants.

The chips will also get next generation Adreno GPUs.  Currently Qualcomm is preparing to roll out chips powered by the Adreno 220, which will be starting to flood the market this year replacing the Adreno 205.  The hardware maker promises "console-like" graphics, at least on the highest end models.

The entire package is expected to bump performance in excess of 150 percent, while cutting power consumption by 65 percent.

The chips will also have some slick connectivity options.  They will have an onboard LTE modem, which Qualcomm claims will be an industry first.  For those unfamiliar, LTE is the 4G wireless communications technology embraced by many carriers worldwide, including America's two largest carriers, Verizon and AT&T.

The new Snapdragons also include support for Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth and FM.  And they support stereoscopic 3D (S3D) video and picture taking.  They also support near field communication (NFC).  For those unfamiliar with NFC, it’s a super-short range communications mode that operates between a device and a reader within 4 cm of it.  Using NFC, cell phones can act as electronic boarding passes or credit cards, being swiped across the detector device.

II. The Product

The single-core design's product name is MSM8930.  Despite the high clock speed (2.5 GHz), it is clearly targeted at the smart phone arena.  It features a new Adreno 305 GPU that is 6 times more powerful than the Adreno 130, or roughly 50 percent faster than current generation chips.  

Next up is an asynchronous dual-core chip, the MSM8960.  It features a snazzier Adreno 225 GPU, which offers eight times the Adreno 130's baseline performance.  It will also support dual-channel LP DDR memory.  This will finally offer some justification bandwidth-wise for bumping the memory footprint on smart phones up to 1 GB or higher.  Speaking of which, that's the primary market for the MSM8690 -- smart phones -- though it may show up in tablets as well.

The real powerhouse of the series is the APQ8064.  It is Qualcomm's first quad-core ARM Snapdragon chip.  It will pack four GPU cores in a configuration dubbed the Adreno 320, which offers 16 times the performance of the Adreno 130.  It's primarily targeted at "large-screen devices" like tablets or laptops.  It reportedly will feature 15 times the performance of the original Adreno 130.  Qualcomm describes the chip's performance as "similar graphics performance to today’s latest game consoles."

The APQ8064 will feature support for both PC and LP DDR memory, serial and PCIe interfaces, and multiple USB ports.

III. The Release

Samples of the new MSM8930 chip will begin sampling in Q2 2011 (in a couple months).  It could ship in devices before the year's end.  The dual- and quad-core MSM8960 and APQ8064 won't be sampled until early 2012.

By then expect Samsung, NVIDIA, and Texas Instruments to be cooking up new dual- and quad-core designs, so you can think of this announcement more of a taste of what's to come, across the board.  But a sweet taste it is.

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A 2.5 GHz processor...
By quiksilvr on 2/14/2011 10:27:13 AM , Rating: 3
On a cellphone...

RE: A 2.5 GHz processor...
By Brandon Hill on 2/14/2011 10:27:55 AM , Rating: 5
I'm wondering how long it will take for Intel to REALLY start feeling the pressure from ARM in the netbook/notebook sector.

RE: A 2.5 GHz processor...
By theapparition on 2/14/2011 10:50:46 AM , Rating: 2
Windows ARM anyone?

Very surprised that MS dropped support for ARM, MIPS and DEC Alpha years ago. Good to see them bring back ARM support.

However, a 2.5GHz ARM /= 2.5GHz Core2, so I don't think Intel is sweating it too much. However, I bet they are kicking themselves for divesting in ARM long ago. Right now, thier mobile offings look downright pathetic.

RE: A 2.5 GHz processor...
By DanNeely on 2/14/2011 11:13:55 AM , Rating: 3
I've read elsewhere that MS keeps several non x86 windows ports alive internally to avoid any x86isms that would lock them in, but stopped selling anything except the Itanic version because there wasn't enough demand to cover QA costs. IIRC MS is planning to pull out of the Itantic due to shrinking demand as well.

RE: A 2.5 GHz processor...
By Taft12 on 2/14/2011 4:49:11 PM , Rating: 1
Very surprised that MS dropped support for ARM, MIPS and DEC Alpha years ago.

You shouldn't be surprised, it made no business sense to support any of those architectures years ago.

Now that the smartphone revolution caught MS offguard (imagine that! MS caught offguard by a new technology!) they have to make up for lost time.

RE: A 2.5 GHz processor...
By fteoath64 on 2/27/2011 9:00:41 PM , Rating: 2
"However, a 2.5GHz ARM /= 2.5GHz Core2, so I don't think Intel is sweating it too much. "

On a processor level maybe so but overall for a machine the GPU plays a huge part as seen in AMD Fusion. Intel is sweating on both sides cos ARM has decent GPUs for mobile devices while AMD Fusion has a good GPU while taking only 10watts more. Intel's lack of GPU expertise is showing and maybe their key weakness here.

For the tablet market Intel can sweaten the deal with OEMs/ODMs by bundling cheap SSD modules with Medfield. Still, whose GPU are they going to use ?. PowerVR or Mvidia ?.

RE: A 2.5 GHz processor...
By MonkeyPaw on 2/14/2011 10:43:15 AM , Rating: 1
I could care less about clocks. Clock speed doesn't mean everything, and I hope it isn't a marketing ploy. It might be a good start, but I don't think a fast single core is a better option than slower dual cores. With that kind of clock speed, I'd imaging it has a deeper pipeline, which typically results in branch misses and inefficiency. I guess we shall see.

RE: A 2.5 GHz processor...
By bah12 on 2/14/2011 10:54:34 AM , Rating: 3
While you wrap your brain around what a near-desktop speed smart phone CPU might be like, get this -- the cores will be available in single, dual, and quad-core variants.

Can we not do this. It is bad enough Mick wet himself in this paragraph, but I expect DT readers to be a bit more savvy. GHZ <> Performance. If the dreaded netburst/P4 days taught us anything it is that Ghz is not the end all be all of performance. And it will take a heck of a lot more than 2.5 to be "near desktop performance".

Don't get me wrong I find the pace in the mobile sector staggering, but let's learn from the past and not get caught in the same Ghz trap as we have before.

RE: A 2.5 GHz processor...
By MDGeek on 2/14/11, Rating: -1
RE: A 2.5 GHz processor...
By PAPutzback on 2/14/2011 11:58:56 AM , Rating: 2
FYI, Megapixels means bigger not better. Even if you had bought a 20 MP camera it might not be as good as a 3 or 5 megapixel camera for taking an 8x10.

RE: A 2.5 GHz processor...
By messyunkempt on 2/22/2011 7:57:55 AM , Rating: 2
There wa no user error or settings mismatch, the friend is an experienced professional photographer.

Although i agree that more pixels doesnt necessarily mean better pictures, maybe this also helped towards his photos turning out better...

RE: A 2.5 GHz processor...
By deputc26 on 2/14/2011 12:20:27 PM , Rating: 2
Thankyou bah12. When I read that I immediately experienced the disappointment one feels when a professional author makes a loon of himself. Hello? hello? There are three general factors that effect processor performance not one.

1. Clockspeed
2. Instruction level parallelism
3. Core count (or thread level parallelism if you will)

ARM SOCs will soon approach desktop levels in 1 and 3 but not in 2.

RE: A 2.5 GHz processor...
By omnicronx on 2/14/2011 3:24:39 PM , Rating: 1
Did he ever state that a 2.5GHZ ARM chip is directly comparible to a 2.5GHZ desktop chip.

Seriously read the entire article before pointing out the obvious.
The entire package is expected to bump performance in excess of 150 percent, while cutting power consumption by 65 percent.
A 2.5Ghz chip will push it into the low end desktop category in terms of performance, and for all intents and purposes, I too am excited about the prospect.

RE: A 2.5 GHz processor...
By freeman70 on 2/14/2011 8:45:45 PM , Rating: 2
Correct me if I am wrong but aren't ARM CPUs RISC designs? If this is the case, shouldn't instruction level parallelism be much easier to arbitrate? Also, while raw performance may be affected by the factors you mentioned, I think compilers and the OS kernels have just as much or even more of an effect. If nobody can properly harness the potential of the new CPU, it is just wasted resources. You just have to look at how many apps that are truly multi-threaded in the desktop world to understand what I mean.

RE: A 2.5 GHz processor...
By mathew7 on 2/15/2011 4:01:04 AM , Rating: 2
That is the reason comparisons are not good. Whatever operation RISC does (let's say decode a frame), CISC (x86) does with less instructions. But RISC has bigger IPC. So the real benchmark is I*IPC. But this is before we get into x86 microinstruction interpreter and out-of-order execution.
So no, I have no idea which way the ARM 1GHz vs x86 1GHz performance lead goes. But if power consumption is also included, then I go towards ARM. What I mean is a 1GHz ARM compared with a similar performing x86 will win on the consumption front. x86 has too much baggage (although that made it successful). Intel can still hold it thanks to the lead of manufacturing process.

RE: A 2.5 GHz processor...
By geddarkstorm on 2/14/2011 3:58:38 PM , Rating: 2
Sure, except the jump from 800 Mhz to 1 Ghz has been significant with just the current gen of ARM cores (A8s, say nothing of the vastly improved A9s). Going up by another 1.5 Ghz is going to be an extreme increase in performance however you slice it, and this probably is requiring the cortex A15s, which are again a huge step up over the just now reaching the market A9s.

So, sure, let's learn from the past, but don't forget the RECENT past and the lessons we're seeing in it right now. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to extrapolate, and the conclusions are ridiculous for something small and mobile like a phone.

"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007

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