Feb 08 AT 2:50 AM Taylor Wimberly 56 Comments

Samsung Galaxy S II will be the first device powered by dual-core Orion?

In just five days Samsung will announce the successor to the Galaxy S at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Samsung has been teasing the device, but the hardware specs have remained a mystery.

We heard stories before the Nexus S launch that Samsung was testing multiple devices which could become the final product (hence the dual-core rumor) and it sounds like they are up to it again.

I’ve always read that it takes handset makers over a year to develop a new smartphone, but in my view these things are crammed together in just a few short months. These big companies watch what the competition is doing (just like us) and then they tweak their handset designs right up until the last deadline before a big trade show (like MWC).

Motorola raised the bar for what we should expect from a high-end mobile device (with the Atrix at CES), and now Samsung is trying their hardest to top that.

Early rumors said the Galaxy S II might be a Tegra 2-powered device after Samsung placed a large order with NVIDIA, but more recent reports have suggested the CPU could come from Samsung. I’ve even heard people saying it could be Qualcomm or Texas Instruments. The first Galaxy S sold well over 10 million units, so it’s easy to see why everyone is getting excited over who won this lottery.

Based on everything I have heard, the top two candidate to provide the CPU for the Galaxy S II were NVIDIA (for their early availability of the Tegra 2) and Samsung Electronics (for their Samsung-ish-nesh). Samsung Mobile hinted during IFA last year that they were open to using an application processor from a competing company, but the latest intel we have thinks that they stuck with their own.

Samsung’s dual-core 1 GHz Orion processor was first announced back in September and they said it would be “available to select customers in the fourth quarter of 2010 and is scheduled for mass production in the first half of 2011.” They missed their target availability of Q4 2010, but recent news has suggested that Orion would arrive in devices by Q2 2011. We don’t know why the date was moved back, but there have been reports that Samsung might have clocked the Orion cores up to 1.2 GHz to compete with Qualcomm’s dual-core Snapdragon.

Going with the Orion application processor could be a real wild card for Samsung because little is known about how it stacks up with the competition. Samsung revealed that the Orion would feature two 1 GHz Cortex-A9 cores and then we discovered it has an ARM Mali-400 GPU capable of producing “5 times the 3D graphics performance over the previous processor generation from Samsung.”

No other Android devices have used the Mali-400 GPU. We don’t know what to tell you about its performance other than to say it should be very competitive with the GeForce GPU inside the Tegra 2.

So what made Samsung go with their Orion over the Tegra 2? We honestly don’t know at this point, but hopefully it’s because they believe that Orion will deliver a better experience to the end user. Samsung will lose access to the premium content designed for Tegra 2, but the Orion platform may have other benefits that are unknown at this time.

Part of me also thinks that Samsung is just playing it safe and sticking with what Apple would do. Samsung has long manufactured the application processors that Apple designs and it was recently reported that they are quadrupling their mobile chip production in 2011, with half of their inventory going to Apple. The A4 chip inside the iPhone and iPad used an almost identical ARM Cortex-A8 core and similar PowerVR GPU to Samsung’s Hummingbird, so I’m betting that Orion will closely resemble the new A5.

I believe that Samsung wants to be the next Apple and this strategy ensures that both the Galaxy S II and iPhone 5 will have relatively the same capabilities and performance. This means that Samsung will really have to focus on premium content (Samsung Media Hub) and customer support if they want to come out on top.

Most of you know I’ve been a fan of Tegra 2 for the last couple of months, but I’m really excited to see how the Orion processor stacks up. Samsung’s Hummingbird processor offered the fastest GPU (PowerVR SGX540) when it launched, so it’s nice to see that Orion promises 5x the graphics performance. Hopefully Samsung teamed with some application and game developers that can take full advantage of this powerful GPU.

What do you think about Samsung’s decision to go with Orion? Could it surprise us and become the new fastest dual-core processor? Do you ever see Samsung using another companies’ application processor or do you think they will remain loyal to their own?

Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

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