New processor support UHD video, Advanced LTE, and 802.11ac

The system-on-a-chip (SoC) market is growing crowded, and the competition is intense.  Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd.'s (KSC:005930Exynos 5250, Intel Corp.'s (INTCAtom Z2760, and Apple, Inc.'s (AAPLA6X are currently trading blows atop the performance charts.  NVIDIA Corp.'s (NVDA) is claiming its just released Tegra 4 processor (28 nm) is the "world's fastest" mobile chip.

I. Qualcomm Airs Second Generation 28 nm SoC Product

That list leaves off one big player -- Qualcomm, Inc. (QCOM).  A year ago Qualcomm released the Snapdragon S4, a SoC that went on to become one of the most popular chips among high-power Windows RT and Android devices.  This year at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, Qualcomm announced its answer to the aforementioned competition -- and a departure from its naming.

The San Diego, Calif.-based chipmaker ditched the SX style names for this generation, instead naming its chips (from low- to high-end) Snapdragon 200, 400, 600, and 800.  The new second-generation 28 nanometer designs are expected to launch in mid 2013.

Snapdragon 800
The new Snapdragon series will land this summer. [Image Source: Liliputing]

The chips pack Qualcomm's new Krait 400 cores, which can be clocked up to 2.3 GHz.  Qualcomm packs up to four of the cores in its high-end 600 and 800 series chips.

Also onboard will be the latest bleeding edge communications standards.  There's an on-die third generation Advanced LTE modem capable of pulling down 150 megabits-per-second in the high-end 800 series.  Also supported are 802.11n and the upcoming 802.11ac wireless standard.

II. UHD Video and Quad-Cores

The Snapdragon 800 will be clocked at 2.3 GHz and will be roughly 75 percent faster than the fastest Snapdragon S4.  The Snapdragon 600 will be clocked at 1.9 GHz and be 40 percent faster that than the fastest Snapdragon S4.  

The 600 will feature a "speed enhanced" version of last generation's Adreno 320 on-die GPU from Qualcomm's in-house GPU family which it purchased from Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.'s (AMD) in 2008 and has been building on ever since.  The 800 will take things a step further with an Adreno 330, which is estimated to be twice as powerful as the Adreno 320.

Adreno inside
The new generation of Adreno on-die GPUs will be up to twice as fast.

The new GPU will be able to power ultra high-definition displays -- which can be up to a ludicrous 2560x2048.  And dual signal processors (on-die) allow for up to 55 megapixel imaging sensors, capable of capturing an equal-ridiculous 4K (3840 × 2160) perfect for those new television sets, also aired at CES 2013.

The new chips also support LP-DDR3 and Bluetooth 3.0.

III. The Market Divides

The new Qualcomm chip marks an interesting division amongst the ARM consortium.  Qualcomm and Apple are pushing advanced independent architectures.  Meanwhile Samsung and NVIDIA have adopted ARM Holdings Plc.'s (LON:ARMlatest and greatest Cortex-A15 reference design and modified it. 

ARM Cortex A15
NVIDIA and Samsung use ARM's proprietary Cortex-A15 core designs. 
[Image Source: ARM Holdings]

The division divides the SoC crowd into three distinct camps: x86 (Intel Atom and AMD's APUs), custom ARM (Apple, Qualcomm) and modified Cortex-A15 (NVIDIA, Samsung).

Qualcomm has its work cut out for it competing with Tegra 4, Clover Trail+ (also due out mid-2013), and the rest of the pack.  You can expect its first chips to be Snapdragon 600s, which will land in Q2 2013 according to the company's press release and wildly random press conference (which featured Big Bird, Star Trek, Desmond Tutu, Steve Ballmer, Maroon 5, and more).

Sources: Qualcomm, The Verge

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