Qualcomm: Small Chips, Big Guns

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs delivered the opening keynote at 2013 CES today, and
announced several new Snapdragon processors at CES for smartphones, and tablets. The newest flagship processors, the Snapdragon 800 and 600, offering faster speeds and long battery with a shift to a 28nm HPm (“High Performance for mobile”) fabrication process and advanced Adreno graphics.

Jacobs took over the speaking slot normally held by Microsoft, although Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, stopped by the keynote to talk about the company’s partnership with Qualcomm (which are used in Windows RT devices).

Qualcomm’s current Snapdragon processors are labeled S1, S2, S3 and S4 to reflect the processor generation. Today the company is introducing a new labeling sceme. There will be 4 tiers – Snapdragon 800, 600, 400 and 200 – to make it easy to distinguish the processor segmentation

Qualcomm’s previous top of the line processor, the Snapdragon S4 Pro is featured in devices like the Google Nexus 4. Their 8960 processor, has been a big hit for high end smartphones since it integrates LTE in the chipset. Only Apple and Samsung venture very far from the Qualcomm tree with their own processor designs for advanced LTE smartphones.

Qualcomm’s premium mobile chips are now the Snapdragon 600 and 800. The 800 series, include Qualcomm’s newest 4G LTE technology that offers speeds up to 150 Mbps. Both new processor lines also include the newest generation of mobile Wi-Fi connectivity, 802.11ac.

  • The Snapdragon 600 is an integrated system with a Quad Core Krait 300 CPU running at up to 1.9 GHz teamed with an Adreno 320 GPU offering over 3x the performance of A225. It also and introduces support for OpenGL 3.0 , OpenCL and Renderscript. Qualcomm says the Snapdragon 600 will deliver up to 40% better performance than the Snapdragon S4 Pro processor.
  • The flagship Snapdragon 800 features a Quad Core Krait 400 CPU with speeds up to 2.3 GHz and an Adreno 330 GPU with 2 times better compute performance than Adreno 320. It supports 4G LTE Cat 4 and 802.11ac with LTE data rates up to 150 Mbps and 802.11ac at speeds up to 1 Gbps. UltraHD—video can be captured, played back and displayed with four times as many pixels as 1080p.

The Snapdragon 800 processors are currently being sampled and should be available in commercial devices by mid-year. The 600 processors should be in gadgets by the second quarter of this year. Qualcomm already has more than 50 design wins for its 600 and 800 processors, the company said.

Unlike the newly announced Tegra 4, which uses a standalone LTE chipset, the fifth-generation NVIDIA Icera i500 processor, the 800 integrates LTE into a single chip.

There will also be a Snapdragon 400 and 200, for less demanding smartphones and tablets, but they’ll be announced later in the year with no details available yet.

Qualcomm also announced that its subsidiary, Qualcomm Atheros and Wilocity, a leading developer of 60GHz multi-gigabit wireless chipsets, launched the industry’s first tri-band reference design that combines 802.11ac (5GHz) and 802.11ad (60 GHz) wireless capabilities on a single module.

The Wi-Fi Alliance and the Wireless Gigabit Alliance (WiGig) recently announced they will consolidate activity in the Wi-Fi Alliance.

The agreement folds the WiGig Alliance, which developed the 60 GHz specifications, into the Wi-Fi Alliance which will provide interoperability certification and promotion.

WiGig can deliver up to 7Gbps in the 60 GHz band, much more than the 802.11ac flavor of Wi-Fi that is now coming out in the 5 GHz band. It is intended mostly for use within a room.

Based on Qualcomm VIVE 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Wilocity 802.11ad WiGig wireless technologies, the reference design delivers tri-band Wi-Fi, which allows consumers to connect to 60GHz-enabled devices, docks, displays and storage at multi-gigabit speeds, with 2.4GHz/5GHz Wi-Fi. A Wilocity and Marvell partnership also aims to integrate Wilocity’s 60 GHz technology with existing Wi-Fi for new tri-band applications like wireless docking.

Qualcomm is a leader in LTE technology. Its chipsets are used in iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry, with over 340 devices already using its Snapdragon processor and more than 400 on the way. The company faces competition from Broadcom, Intel, Nvidia, MediaTek, Marvell, and several smaller companies. Qualcomm may be a bigger threat to Intel than AMD since the world is going mobile fast.

Global smartphone applications processor sales posted a year-over-year increase of 55 percent in the first quarter, according to market research firm Strategy Analytics.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Tuesday, January 8th, 2013 at 12:33 am .

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