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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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 ?.

“So far we have not seen a single Android device that does not infringe on our patents." -- Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith

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