Next week at Mobile World Congress we will see the debut of several Android devices that feature next-generation mobile processors. Companies like NVIDIA, Samsung, Texas Instruments, and Qualcomm will show off their latest silicon, and each one will tell us why their processor is the best.
Just like I wrote last year around this time, it is too early to tell which companies’ next-generation offering might be the fastest, but I don’t think it really matters at this point. From what I was shown at CES, all the next-generation of multi-core processors will offer similar experiences, features, and performance.
Today Anand Shimpi and Brian Klug of Anandtech posted some benchmark scores for the upcoming dual-core 1.5 GHz Snapdragon S4 (MSM8960). I’m glad these guys were able to benchmark the Snapdragon S4, since a surprising majority of geeks have been ignoring this dual-core processor simply because it wasn’t quad-core.
As we reported back in October when we visited Qualcomm, the Snapdragon S4 features Qualcomm’s custom Krait CPU architecture. This CPU core is different than the reference ARM Cortex-A15 core that will appear in upcoming parts, but it still supports the latest ARM instruction set architecture and should offer comparable performance.
So when Anandtech benchmarked the Snapdragon S4 against a bunch of current-generation processors based on ARM’s Cortex-A9 core, we shouldn’t be surprised that it outperformed them easily.
And of course the industry moves so fast that these benchmarks will look vastly different in a couple of months. When Texas Instruments releases their 1.8 GHz OMAP4470, they could take the lead in graphics performance. And then a few months after that Samsung will release their Exynos 5250 which should outperform everything else. After that we will have quad-core Snapdragon S4s, OMAP5, and probably Tegra 4.
Yes, I know it’s difficult to keep up. No matter how much you research this stuff it will continue to change at break-neck speeds.
But for the immediate future, as in Android smartphones shipping this quarter, NVIDIA’s quad-core Tegra 3 will generate the most hype and design wins. It’s still based on ARM’s Cortex-A9 CPU core, but it has four of them (actually five) and the OEMs seem to be obsessed with “quad-core”, just like consumers.
A perfect example of this is HTC’s new smartphone lineup. They have two devices about to be announced, One X and One S, that feature NVIDIA’s Tegra 3 and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 respectively. Even though Snapdragon could offer faster overall performance, HTC chose NVIDIA to power their flagship device the One X.
So why did HTC go with NVIDIA over Qualcomm in their top smartphone? Maybe it was the faster graphics performance, “quad-core” branding, or even NVIDIA’s Tegra Zone, but we don’t have the answer yet.
Hopefully at Mobile World Congress the picture will become more clear, because I haven’t seen many reasons for any consumer to be loyal to any one mobile processor company yet.