Dual core Qualcomm Snapdragon mobile phones coming

Wednesday, January 12, 2011, 9:47 by Tech Correspondent

Qualcomm plans to release HSPA-enabled dual core Snapdragon processors for high-end smartphones this year.

These chipsets are to power devices from Acer, Compal and Pantech in the near future. Chipmakers that already produce multicore processors for mobile devices include Nvidia and Freescale. Related: Freescale dual core i.MX 6 processors preview

Snapdragon processors are popular among both tablets and smartphones. They include the QSD8x50 with a 1GHz enhanced core; MSM8x55 with a 1GHz enhanced core and multimedia optimizations; QSD8x50A with a 1.3GHz enhanced core; and the latest dual core processors MSM8260 and MSM8660 at 1.2GHz, and QSD8672 running at 1.5GHz.

Qualcomm’s MSM8260 and MSM8660 dual core Snapdragon processor models are expected to be used in upcoming Android devices. Together the processing cores operate at 1.2 GHz. Qualcomm’s multicore processors will support 1080p video encoding and decoding; and because they use two cores simultaneously, they will be able to handle multitasking better than a single core can. Also see: Android phones in India

Qualcomm intends these third-generation Snapdragon chipsets to power high-definition entertainment and intense Web browsing applications. The processor system Qualcomm is using includes two main processing cores; one dedicated graphics processing unit for 2D and 3D rendering; a chip for processing audio; and an integrated Adreno 305 GPU, for current-generation console graphics. It also has an integrated GPS chip which is said to consume less power than a standalone GPS chip would have.

The Snapdragon processors support 24 bit WXGA 1280 x 800 (full HD) resolution display; and while MSM8260 supports HSPA (high speed packet access) 4G networks, the Snapdragon MSM8660 supports multi mode HSPA+ (advanced high speed packet access) or CDMA2000 and 1xEV-DO Rev. B networks. Also see: Dual core BlackBerry in the works?

Qualcomm’s dual core processor uses an asynchronous design. This is said to be contrary to how a symmetrical design would be – in which the different processing cores would work at the same frequencies, consuming the same power. An asynchronous design allows each core’s voltage and performance to be controlled to save power when the device isn’t performing a resource intensive function, or is doing two things such as downloading mail in the background while playing a high-definition video. The processing cores involved in performing these tasks need not run at the same speed.

Qualcomm recently acquired a chip vendor called Atheros for $3.1 billion and intends to make chipsets for PCs too. Its Snapdragon processors are used in at least 10 dual core tablets and in 77 percent of Android smartphones. The company’s competitors include Nvidia, Intel Broadcom and MediaTek.
Of these makes, Nvidia was perhaps the most ubiquitous among tablets and high end smartphones on display at CES 2011, a recently held tech trade show. Nvidia’s Tegra 2 multi core processors are the standard for feature rich Android devices running version 2.2 aka Froyo or above, and are used by Motorola, Samsung and LG, among other brands.

We earlier reported that Nvidia is to deliver a large order of Tegra 2 processors to Samsung in the first half of this year, and that the next generation Galaxy Tab, which is to be released at the Mobile World Congress 2011, will use Tegra 2 chipsets. The chipmaker expects demand for Tegra chipsets to grow in value by 150 per cent from $4 billion in 2010 to $6 billion in 2011 and further to $10 billion in 2013.

Nvidia’s Tegra 2 processors (along with Android) are being used by the new Motorola Xoom tablet of which 1 million units are expected to be sold soon after it is released around April. Tegra 2 processors are also used by Motorola’s Atrix 4G smartphone, Dell’s Streak 7 tablet, Vizio’s Via Phone and LG’s Optimus 2X.

Tech website Slashgear compared gaming speeds on an LG Optimus 2X with a Samsung Nexus S. While LG’s device uses an ARM based Tegra 2 chipset clocked at 1.2 GHz, Nexus has an ARM Hummingbird processor clocked at 1 GHz. Of these, the Optmus 2 X is said to be the faster device by far.

Nvidia uses a GeForce graphics processor that supports a 3D user interface and 3D gaming on mobile phones. It also supports full HD resolution playback via large screen televisions. Seeing a lack of high power mobile games in the market, Nvidia has also developed a Tegra Zone app, which has games and related content meant for Nvidia’s chipset platform. Using SkypeKit, the chipset manufacturer has integrated HD video conferencing capabilities for Tegra 2 based tablets.

Tegra 2 is Nvidia’s second attempt at making processors for mobile devices. The company is best known for developing the dedicated graphics processing unit. The company’s first mobile processor Tegra 1 was used by Microsoft’s Kin phone and in the Zune HD, but neither of these devices did well in the market.

Nvidia pioneered in making dual core processors for mobile devices. It uses chipset architecture provided by U.K.-based chip design company ARM. Two cores are said to consume less power than one processor does, and are a boost to the mobile device industry, which is dependent on packing high power, long battery life and computer-like functions into pocket sized phones.

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