Qualcomm announced today that their dual-core 1.5 GHz Snapdragon processor (QSD8672) will not arrive in products until the end of next year and their dual-core 1.2 GHz Snapdragons (MSM8260 and MSM8660) would start appearing in devices during the first three months of 2011. This could mean trouble for Qualcomm because their competitors have announced dual-core processors which could be in smartphones (and tablets) by Christmas.
LG recently announced their Optimus Series smartphones will use the NVIDIA Tegra 2 mobile processor and debut starting in the fourth quarter of this year. Samsung also said their dual-core Orion processor would be available to “select customers in the fourth quarter” and we expect it could arrive in a next-gen Galaxy phone soon.
So Qualcomm will be later than others with their dual-core processors, but the real issue might be performance.
Android fans loved the original 1 GHz Snapdragon processor (QSD8x50) when it debuted in the Nexus One (and then later in other HTC phones), but after more 3D games started to appear in the Android Market we soon realized the limitations of the Adreno 200 GPU that Qualcomm was using.
Motorola and Samsung both went with PowerVR GPUs from Imagination Technology, and they have since taken away the performance crown from Qualcomm (and HTC).
So what is Qualcomm’s response? Their new dual-core Snapdragons might use the Adreno 220 GPU which they say offers improved 3D graphics (up to 80M triangles/sec and 500M+ 3D pixels/sec). However, several leaked benchmark scores indicate the Adreno 220 will be or on par with the the current leader – the PowerVR SGX540 found in Samsung’s Hummingbird processor. Update: Those leaked benchmarks could be from the Adreno 205 which would make this post look quite silly. See this post for more info on the Adreno 205.
Now we have NVIDIA and Samsung which are both saying their dual-core processors and new GPUs will deliver five times the graphics performance of the previous generation single-core offerings. We have yet to verify these amazing claims, but it sounds like they could leapfrog the competition and Qualcomm and TI will be forced into playing catchup.
To recap the Android ecosystem for those not paying close attention, the dual-core CPUs and GPUs we believe will power the next-generation of high-end smartphones include:
- HTC: Qualcomm Snapdragon (Adreno 220 GPU)
- LG: NVIDIA Tegra 2 (GeForce GPU)
- Motorola: TI OMAP4 (PowerVR SGX540) or NVIDIA Tegra 2 (GeForce GPU)
- Samsung: Samsung Orion (GPU unknown)
HTC is the main handset maker relying on Qualcomm for their high-end phones. There were rumors back in 2009 that they were talking with NVIDIA, but nothing ever materialized. It appears they will stick with Qualcomm in the near future and this may hurt the sales of their high-end units if they can’t match performance with the competition.
LG becomes the real wild-card here. They claim to be the first ones with a dual-core smartphone this year, but they have yet to produce a real winner and I’m not so sure how committed to Android they are.
Motorola and Texas Instruments have been buddies for awhile, but rumors suggest that Moto could be switching to NVIDIA for their next high-end phone. TI has their dual-core OMAP4 in the works, but I have seen nothing that makes me believe it will be available for smartphones this year. Even if it did ship on time, we know the GPU is the same as what’s in the current Samsung Hummingbird processor.
Samsung’s Hummingbird is the best single-core 1 GHz mobile processor and we have high hopes for the upcoming dual-core Orion. Some analyst had claimed Samsung had a Q4 hole when it came to high-end smartphones, but the Orion could be available this year. I honestly think Samsung could ride the Galaxy S lineup all the way through Christmas (yes, they are that good), but my gut tells me they will have a new flagship smartphone in stores by Christmas.
Conclusions? What conclusions?
At the end of the day, I think I’m left with more questions than answers and we will not know how this plays out for another couple months.
- Can LG and NVIDIA really deliver a Tegra 2 phone in time for Christmas?
- Will Tegra 2 become the new performance leader?
- Are we wrong about the Adreno 220 GPU? Can it surpass the top offerings from Imagination Technologies and NVIDIA?
- Will Motorola actually dump TI and switch to NVIDIA for their high-end phones?
- Can dual-core phones deliver increased performance and increased battery life at the same time?
- What GPU will Samsung choose for their dual-core Orion? PowerVR or something completely different?
I know there are a lot of people out there smarter than me who read this blog, so please sound off if you think you can enlighten me.