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Qualcomm’s Snapdragon goes quad-core

Feb 14, 2011 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 7 views

Qualcomm announced three new entries in its Snapdragon family of processors, including the company's first quad-core offering. The MSM8930, MSM8960, and APQ8064 respectively include one, two, or four cores clocked at up to 2.5GHz, integrated LTE modems, and stereoscopic 3D imaging, the company says.

Unlike many of its competitors, Qualcomm doesn't license completed processor cores from ARM Holdings; rather, it employs its ARM architectural license to develop its own processors. The company says its newly announced Snapdragons employ a homegrown architecture codenamed "Krait," claimed to deliver 150 percent higher overall performance and 65 percent lower power consumption than currently available ARM-based cores.

Quoted in a piece by PC's Sascha Segan, Qualcomm Senior Vice President Luis Pineda says Krait is compatible with, but not the same as, the ARM Cortex-A9 cores used in Nvidia's Tegra 2 and TI's OMAP 4. "We don't see this as competing with Cortex-A9. We see it as competing with Cortex-A15 [link]," he reportedly added.

Earlier this month, TI announced it will begin sampling two Cortex-A15 OMAP 5 processors, which will feature dual cores and — like Qualcomm's new Krait devices — 28nm fabrication. And Nvidia is expected to announce its Tegra 3 later this week, which, according to a widely leaked slide, will include quad Cortex-A8 cores clocked at up to 1.5GHz.

A one, a two, a three …

Meanwhile, Qualcomm's new Snapdragons appear to cover the waterfront when it comes to performance. The single-core MSM8930 — "the world's first single-chip solution with an integrated LTE modem designed to take LTE to mass market smartphones" — will include a new Adreno 305 GPU (graphics processing unit), offering six times the performance of that in the original 2007 Snapdragon, the company says.

Aimed at both smartphones and tablets, the dual-core MSM8960 will include an integrated multi-mode 3G/LTE modem, says Qualcomm. Featuring "asynchronous CPU cores which can be independently controlled for maximum efficiency," the device will support dual-channel LP DDR memory and will include the Adreno 225 GPU, offering eight times the performance of the original Adreno.

At the top of the line, the APQ8064 will include four asynchronous CPU cores, plus a quad-core Adreno 320 GPU that performs 15 times faster than the original Adreno, "enabling console-quality gaming and rendering rich user interfaces." Also offered will be support for both PC and LP DDR memory, serial and PCI Express interfaces, and operation with cameras up to 20 megapixels, Qualcomm says.

As implied by its AP ("application processor") prefix, the APQ8064 will not include an on-chip cellular radio. Instead, Qualcomm says that the device will "seamlessly integrate with Qualcomm 3G and LTE MDM modems and modules." (In this, it is apparently similar to the APQ8060, announced last week with dual cores and an Adreno 220 GPU.)

Qualcomm adds, however, that the APQ8064, MSM8960, and MSM8930 all include Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, and FM receivers, plus support for near field communication (NFC). Additionally, all support stereoscopic 3D (S3D) video and photo capture and playback, the company says. (Resolutions and frame rates will apparently differ, but were not detailed.)

According to Qualcomm, the three new devices are like its other Snapdragon chipsets in supporting "every major operating system across all tiers of products." This includes Android and Windows Phone 7, the company specified.

Qualcomm also announced that it has collaborated with Netflix to ensure that devices running Android on Snapdragon processors will be compatible with instant streaming of TV shows and movies. Whether this will apply to Snapdragon devices that have already been shipped was not specified, however.

Bill Holmes, Netflix vice president of business development, stated, "We're pleased to expand our mobile offering by providing our members an app for TV shows and movies streaming from Netflix to Snapdragon-enabled Android devices. Qualcomm's expertise in mobile hardware/software integration and their collaboration in the consumer electronics space makes them the perfect fit in bringing Netflix to a range of Android handsets and tablets."

New modem chipsets

In addition to the three Snapdragon devices with their ARM-based application processors and integrated modems, Qualcomm also announced a bevy of separate modem chips. For example, the MDM8215 and MDM9615 are 28nm-fabbed devices that both support DC-HSPA+, while the 9615 adds LTE (FDD and TDD), EV-DO Rev-B, and TD-SCDMA, according to the company.

The new MDM8225, meanwhile, will support HSPA+ Release 9, delivering higher data rates by aggregating different frequency bands. Qualcomm said it is working with T-Mobile USA to deliver 84Mbps HSPA+ capability via this chip in 2012.

Additionally revealed were the MDM9625 and MDM9225, for use in mobile broadband data devices such as USB modems. These new MDM chipsets will both support the LTE FDD and LTE TDD UE Category 4 mobile broadband standards, which offer peak downlink data rates of up to 150Mbps; the MDM9625 also supports HSPA+ Release 9, EV-DO Rev-B, EV-DO Advanced and TD-SCDMA, while the MDM9225 chipset offers the same except for EV-DO.

Finally, Qualcomm announced its "next-generation" embedded Gobi3000 certified reference design, which doubles the HSPA downlink speed and enhances the Gobi common application programming interface (API) functionality for enterprise applications. Gobi3000-based modules, along with enhanced system integration and differentiated software solutions, allow customers — such as Huawei, Novatel Wireless, Option, Sierra Wireless, and ZTE — to offer both single-mode (UMTS) and multi-mode designs (CDMA/UMTS), the company says.


According to Qualcomm, the MSM8960 will begin sampling in the second quarter, while the MSM8930 and APQ8064 will begin sampling in early 2012.

The MDM8215, MDM8225, MDM9225, MDM9615, and MDM9625 will begin sampling in late 2011, and the updated Gobi3000 reference design is available now, Qualcomm adds.

The company's Mobile World Congress stand is #8B53, located in Exhibit Hall 8.

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