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Qualcomm romps back into ARM based power leadership, pushed own GPUs

Qualcomm saved its four-core Snapdragon official launch for Barcelona and surprised everyone, littering it among a swathe of Qualcomm announcements, e


Published: 17 February, 2011


Qualcomm saved its four-core Snapdragon official launch for Barcelona and surprised everyone, littering it among a swathe of Qualcomm announcements, each one geared up to look forward to faster networks and new highs in mobile data usage. The new Snapdragons will arrive roughly at the same time as the Texas Instruments quad core range introduced last week – samples early 2012 and devices soon after.

The quad-core APQ8064 becomes the high end Snapdragon range and is based on new micro-architecture codenamed Krait (Qualcomm has a rare architectural license for its ARM cores, which enables customization of the designs). It was almost as if Qualcomm was waiting until it could see the whites of its rivals eyes, wait for it, wait for it, before firing off the volley that showed it had not lost its touch and been outpaced by Nvidia, Samsung and TI. The new Snapdragon generation will use a low power 28nm process and pledges speeds of up to 2.5GHz per core which could take it beyond the power range of the TI OMAP 5 range announced last week, and is also beyond the power range Nvidia has so far revealed on its roadmap.

The product will be key to Qualcomm's bid to move beyond the handset and push its architecture into home networking, entertainment and computing devices. While some might conceive of a superphone with a quad-core chip, all Qualcomm wanted to talk about was all about the requirements of new converged device formats, such as large screens, complex operating systems, advanced multitasking and HD and 3D video.

Also included in the new design are Qualcomm's Adreno graphics, and it says this level of integration can deliver 12 times the available performance as well as 75% lower power than the first generation of Snapdragon. The APQ8064 will include the Adreno 320 quad-core GPU, which will deliver 15 times greater performance than the original Adreno GPU, targeting console gaming. There is also support for 20-megapixel cameras and 3D recording and playback. The TI announcement last week mentioned 24 MP cameras, so there power ranges may well be in line with one another.

Samples of the APQ8064 will be available in early 2012. "Just as the original Snapdragon revolutionized smartphones with the first 1GHz processor, these new generations of Snapdragon will revolutionize the next wave of mobile entertainment and computing," said Steve Mollenkopf, group president at Qualcomm.

For smaller devices, Qualcomm announced the single-core MSM8930, the first single-chip solution with an integrated LTE modem, targeted at mass market 4G smartphones. It will include the new Adreno 305 GPU. There’s also a dual-core MSM8960 with integrated multimode 3G/LTE modem and the Adreno 225 GPU.

For data products such as dongles, Qualcomm has the MDM range, and the latest members look forward to LTE data rates as high as 150Mbps in future.

The MDM9625 and MDM9225 will support the LTE FDD and LTE TDD UE Category 4 standards, and like the new Snapdragons, use the 28nm process for reduced power and size. The chipsets are backwards compatible with previous generations of LTE. The firm also pushed out its HSPA+ range, with the MDM8225 chipset supporting HSPA+ Release 9 (84Mbps peak download).


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