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
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.
quote: The MSM8960 will be available first, sampling in Q2 2011 and likely in devices a year or so later. The sampling schedule seems a bit aggressive given that it's 28nm but that's what Qualcomm is saying.