Sep 08 AT 2:33 PM Taylor Wimberly 22 Comments

Is Qualcomm in trouble with their dual-core processors?

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.

Source: Slashgear

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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  • http://Website Name (required)

    Pleas change “is” in the article title to “are”

    • Dave K

      Why would you change something that is grammatically correct to something that is not? Qualcomm is a company, a singular entity. That means “is” is correct.

      • nEx.Software

        For what it’s worth, when the article was originally posted, and that comment was made, the title was “Is Qualcomm and HTC in trouble with their dual-core processors?”.

        • http://Website Andrew

          For what it’s worth, the title might not have mistakes in it, but whoever is responsible for creating the presentation in the article photo should learn to spell check since it’s asynchronous and not aysnchronous.

  • SliestDragon

    Well that’s great. Not only do I have to wait until Q4 of 2011 to get a 1.5Ghz Dual-core processor in a HTC phone, but it has a chance of having a graphics card in it thats only as good as phones out NOW. I need to lie down…

    • http://Website Derek

      And you can bet that if HTC makes it, it’ll run out of stock after the initial launch quantity runs out.

      Just go with a different manufacturer. By then everything will be on Google 3.x so sense UI wont big that big of an issue.

      • Dave K

        While the shell (i.e. Sense UI) is a major factor in choosing manufacturers, hardware style is another major factor. Unless you’re ok with blocky and ugly phones, you’d never go with a Motorola phone. So if HTC isn’t keeping up, you’re only left with Samsung and LG at that point. That significantly narrows the choices, especially if neither of those two has a phone with specs that are to your liking.

  • http://Website Zizagoo

    Slow down son. If the 1.5ghz is due next year, that means Alienbabeltech were mistaken in their assumption about the Glacier having a dual core, and the leaked Glacier benchmarks are rather from one of the new second gen 45nm Snapdragons, which have the Adreno 205. There’s the 800mhz 7X30, 1ghz 8X55 and the 1.3ghz 8X50A, which are due to be released in devices around now.We already know the G2 has the 7X30, and the 911htc leaked spec has the DesireHD with the 8X55.

    So the Glacier probably has either the 1ghz or 1.3ghz new snapdragon, and from the benchmarks we know the Adreno205 performs more or less on par with the Galaxy S’ PowerVGR 540, which isn’t too shabby. Even if Tegra 2 debuts this year, Qualcomm will hit back with the 1.2ghz dual cores early next year, and we’ll see what the 220 can do. I’d expect that rumored PSP phone to be a possible candidate for it.

    • Taylor Wimberly

      I think I agree with you after digging around even more. GLbenchmark has some results from the HTC Vision which is Adreno 205 and it looks on par with the PowerVR 540.

      Still though, Qualcomm is just catching up and NVIDIA and PowerVR are about to pass them up again.

  • Marc

    Well, my plan doesn’t expire until around that time anyway.. I’m with Verizon, hopefully something epic exists around the time I’m due for an upgrade. :) I always seem to get screwed over as far as getting upgrades. I think I’m getting the latest and greatest then a month later, something more awesome comes out! Grrr..

  • http://Website anon

    can you provide a link or some sort of evidence that they delayed the dual core? it doesn’t have it in the qcom press release section as of 9/8

  • http://Website Antwan

    Samsung. Texas Instruments. and Nvidia all have more CPU designing experience than Qualcomm so its no surprise to me that they are playing catchup. They should stick to what they do best and that is lead the pack in the latest and greatest cellular technologies.

    • http://Website MooQ

      Do you have a slightest clue of what you are talking about?
      All these companies aren´t designing. These comapnies aren´t designung the CPU Cores. They are designing Chipsets with licensed CPU Cores from ARM.

      • http://Website Antwan

        Then why does Qualcomms suck so badly? I am already aware that the architecture is licensed from ARM (Its a royalty thing among other things). However, each manufacturer adds their own hardware tweaks into the mix as well so design experience is still very important in making these CPU’s and SoC’s. I apologize if I wasn’t clear on that.

  • http://Website Kendall

    Personally this would be quite a disaster if true as HTC makes the best hardware IMO.

    HOWEVER… I still have hopes for HTC’s September 15th event where they will be announcing new phones, hopefully not all Windows 7 phones and maybe surprise us with some Tegra 2 announcements?

    They’d have to be stupid to stick with Qualcomm for next year as well, who have been lagging pretty much all year now.

    On the other hand the announced Nexus 2 must be on its way for this xmas. Hopefully Google are not as retarded as last year and get their phone out BEFORE the holidays.

    And it may be that Google will partner with another manufacturer (maybe Motorola?) In which case… happy days :)

  • http://Website Dnar56

    1.5 GHz Dual core? what about developing a battery that last longer that 2.5 hrs while web browsing/ watching flash video before Q4 of this year? I dont want to be carrying around a honda generator everywhere i go.

    • Taylor Wimberly

      The ARM Cortex-A9 cpus are supposed to improve battery life. We will have to wait and see how they really perform.

  • http://Website Ray

    Qualcom could be in trouble, as could potentially TI if they don’t have a dual core competitor out the door soon or in the same time frame as Samsung and nVidia. The bigger problem is the sleeping giant known as Intel, who has realized the potential sales they’ve been missing out on. They’re on tract for a ultra low power chip based off their Atom chip for phones and tablets for sometime next year or possibly even late this year. Whether Intel becomes a factor may depend upon whether they’re offering is compatible and easily integrated into Android. (WM7 is a given, since many low end netbooks currently use WM or light version of XP with the Atom).

    Maybe I’ll hold off on that Galaxy S until closer to Christmas and see what the elves dream up… Hero isn’t to shabby with Froyo/CM6 and if nothing else, it may heavily discount the current top end offerings substantially.

    • http://Website MooQ

      The “sleeping giant” sold his ARM CPU Technology and Stuff to Marvell in 2006.
      I had an HTC Blue Angel Smartphone in 2004 with an Intel XScale PXA263 ARM Processor. Yeah thats right kiddos, smartphones even existed way before the iPhone and Android…

      Intel wants to get their x86 Atom CPU line into this market but this won´t happen anytime soon. The in May 2010 introduced Lincroft processor (Atom Z600) hasn´t raised any interest of the numerous smartphone builders.

  • http://Website Andrew

    Hmm.. my big concern with buying an Android from anyone but HTC is lack of updates… You know HTC and Google are tite and so is their kernel with Qualcomm, which is I’m sure a big reason they can deliver updates so timely.

    I wonder if Gingerbread with the overhauled Ui?? will leverage off of any of this 3D GPU’s too??

  • Android

    At least we have something to look forward to in the coming months especially for the tech addicts :) More choices for consumers.