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Motorola X8 homemade SoC recap: modified Snapdragon forms 'the first true mobile computing system'

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Motorola X8 homemade SoC recap: modified Snapdragon forms 'the first true mobile computing system'
Motorola just joined the list of mobile device makers with their own homebrew ARM-based processor, called the X8. The actual name is Motorola X8 Mobile Computing System, and the dry facts are a 1.7 GHz dual-core application processor, 400 MHz quad-core GPU, a natural language processor core, and a contextual computing core.

This is worthy of calling it an 8-core processor according to Moto (Samsung has dibs on the "octa" moniker, we assume), and it is apparently optimized for more than just apps, games and the general stroll around the interface.

Those "natural language"and "contextual computing" cores are hinting at dedicated processes for the OK Google Now touchless control, which keeps the phone aware for its surrounding and your commands even in locked state, and features like Active Display notifications. The reason we didn't have it until now is that such an always-on system takes a toll on the battery, but our guess is that these dedicated processor cores are tasked to maintain the awareness with the utmost frugality, similar to the standby consumption.

As for the muscles, Motorola claimed at the presentation of the new DROIDs that the chip delivers 24% faster CPU and 100% beefier GPU performance compared to the previous DROID lineup. A Motorola spokesperson detailed the X8 as based on Qualcomm's Snapdragon SoC family, with Krait processor and Adreno graphics cores, but heavily modified with additional sidekick cores to handle the always-on voice control and language processing.

Since those touchless control and active notification features are promoted for the Moto X too, we can safely assume that the X8 processor will make a cameo there as well, more so that the rumors and leaked benchmarks peg it as sporting a 1.7 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8960 Pro processor, which seems to be the base for the X8 homebrew SoC, too. Here's the full scoop:


A mobile computing system powers the new Motorola devices, as opposed to a standard application processor chip found in every smartphone. This involves eight tightly integrated processors, special algorithms, and sensors. No one except Motorola could create this system. The result is a consumer experience like no other. Below is what it entails and see the next section for what it enables:

• Four powerful graphics processors each running at 400 MHz delivering 3.2 million pixel fill rate,16 shader units, 512kb dedicated cached memory and running the Egypt performance benchmark at a blazing 155 frames per second (FPS). Fully compliant with Android Project Butter.
• Two ultra fast application processors each running at 1.7 GHz, 28nm low-­power technology, high‐speed dual-­channel DDR RAM running at 533 MHz.
• One local natural language processor (L‐NLP). Motorola proprietary low‐power specialized processor with audio sensors, noise estimators, noise cancellation, and speech recognition technology to enable always-on voice based user interaction without sacrificing battery life.
• One contextual computing processor (CCP). Motorola proprietary low-power specialized processor that computes contextual data from sensors enabling intelligent mobile computing and always-on display mode.

Our main chipset has two CPUs and quad GPUs. We have added two additional low­‐power processors (Contextual Processor, Natural Language Processor) in our system design. So we are not saying we have an octa-­core chip, but we have an octa-­core Mobile Computing System. Silicon vendors only like to talk about dual versus quad core main CPUs because that is how they are priced. We have to brand and market our system as opposed to a chip.

Our approach is completely different. We have built a custom system around the application processor. For example, the new Motorola devices do not use the battery hungry application processor to do always on audio or display. We have custom designed our system to deliver great experiences without killing the battery. We have built the first true mobile computing system.

 

Google is first and foremost an engineering company, so it's not a surprise that with Motorola it is going the homebrew SoC way, just like Apple, Samsung and Huawei, for instance, purposefully creating a mobile processor to suit particular unique features, instead of chasing benchmarks and vertical integration economies of scale only.

references: TaylorWimberly (G+) & TheVerge

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posted on 23 Jul 2013, 13:39 10

1. sorcio46 (Posts: 394; Member since: 27 Jul 2011)


4 Adreno GPUs in the same SoC (maybe Adreno 320 in multi-core?)
2 Krait CPUs @ 1.7GHz
2 small dedicated CPUs

Impressive graphic score in GLbenchmark

#FutureProofSoC

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 13:46

5. Birds (Posts: 970; Member since: 21 Nov 2011)


TO my knowlege, the Adreno GPU had one giant ass core with like 4 sub graphical units in it. However, it is four cores, it will have 16 sub graphical units. Its like how the Tegra 3 has a 12 core GPU, it is actually 3 cores with 4 sub graphical units per core. I think I explained it right, if not, someone correct me.

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 13:54 2

8. sorcio46 (Posts: 394; Member since: 27 Jul 2011)


It is right and if we take this phrase as true

This SoC with is 4x Adreno xxx GPUs
"Egypt performance benchmark at a blazing 155 frames per second"

And the Nexus 4 (1x Adreno 320 @400MHz) does 44FPS
source:http://gfxbench.com/device.jsp?D=Google%20Nexus%204

It means that xxx is 320 so it could have 4x Adreno 320 GPUs :D!

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 14:05 3

9. TylerGrunter (Posts: 868; Member since: 16 Feb 2012)


I think what Birds is trying to say is that you can claim that Adreno 320 has 4 cores (sub graphical units) and that´s just what Motorola is doing. In other words: it´s just your old Adreno 320.
A modified MSM8960T in fact, and therefore the name: MSM8960DT

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 14:52

19. sorcio46 (Posts: 394; Member since: 27 Jul 2011)


This "Old Adreno 320" (as you call it) can't do close to 4x times more...

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 14:17 2

12. MrPhilo (Posts: 47; Member since: 25 Feb 2013)


Its one Adreno 320. The fps was based on the old 2.1 GLBenchmark Eygpt (720p). Even if it was 4x Adreno 320 would be an overkill for a 720p screen along with battery. No point even having a Adreno 330 if that existed.

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 14:52

20. sorcio46 (Posts: 394; Member since: 27 Jul 2011)


That's what I have taken

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 15:52 2

26. zennacko (Posts: 226; Member since: 16 Jun 2013)


Xzibit version: Yo Dawg, I heard you like Adreno 320, So Motorola put more Adreno 320 in your Adreno 320.

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 14:13 1

10. yowanvista (Posts: 297; Member since: 20 Sep 2011)


Adreno 320 doesn't have individual units or 'cores'. It's built around an unified shader design. They probably used a beefier version with slightly more shaders but it has nothing to do with actual 'GPU cores'
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unified_shader_model

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 14:43

16. Birds (Posts: 970; Member since: 21 Nov 2011)


Ok, thanks....So can you explain to me more about this stuff? I'm curious.

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 16:47 2

27. yowanvista (Posts: 297; Member since: 20 Sep 2011)


Unified shaders superseded the traditional separate units which used to be the norm before the advent of DX10. Basically GPUs used to feature 3 different types of units; vertex, pixel & geometry shaders. Qualcomm ditched that starting with Adreno 200 as the industry moved forward.

Other manufacturers like Nvidia do still however use the ancient design and their cores actually still contain those 3 types of shaders.

Mali GPUs older than the T600 series use the old design, and so does Tegra 3 and Tegra 4. So basically the more of those traditional cores there is (eg Mali-400 vs Mali400MP4) the better the performance should be, at least on paper.

Any modern PC GPU or Qualcomms's GPUs will instead feature 'stream processors' that are more optimized at handling modern graphics. Those are the 'cores' which are advertised as "CUDA cores" on Nvidia GPUs and "Stream units" on AMD. Most cards will have a few thousand of them. Qualcomm didn't specify how much of those shaders are used in their Adreno 320.

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 17:15

28. Birds (Posts: 970; Member since: 21 Nov 2011)


OK, thanks.

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 15:34

25. konnor (Posts: 30; Member since: 25 Apr 2013)


No, you're reading it wrong. It's just misleading marketing for the uninformed. It says 4 graphics cores. Pretty much all smartphones have had "multi-core" GPU's for a while, ever since the Mali 400 in Galaxy S2, which had 4 GPU cores.

Imagination has had about half the number of Mali and Adreno, because they build them differently, and Nvidia has had many more "cores", because they're also building them differently into "cores".

So it's just Adreno 320, is what I'm trying to say.

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 13:41 5

2. ahhxd717 (Posts: 317; Member since: 08 Dec 2011)


The natural language processor seems really interesting. Glad Moto is doing something different.

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 13:44 1

3. JojoGo101 (Posts: 211; Member since: 17 Dec 2012)


Wow, just wow.

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 13:46 2

4. Isaiah-54 (Posts: 13; Member since: 16 Sep 2012)


...So its really just a dual core? With different types of dedicated cores that should theoretically boost the overall performance to be close to that of a quad core? Either way, I like what Motorola/Google is doing and can't wait to see how the voice control stuff plays out over time.

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 13:51

7. NexusPhan (Posts: 379; Member since: 11 Jul 2013)


It seems like a better, more efficient take on the BIG.little architecture. I think quad core processor is more accurate than dual but its really both.

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 13:48 4

6. moronman66 (Posts: 159; Member since: 09 Jan 2012)


Actual innovation, I'm impressed Motorola. I thought you guys were gonna go the same way HTC is going for the time being, but man, I am really impressed by these new Droids, I'll consider them seriously.

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 14:15 3

11. roldefol (Posts: 2858; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)


I'm sure the spec trolls will end up breaking it down as such anyway, so essentially we have:

- Snapdragon S4 Pro 1.7 GHz dual core w/ Adreno 320 GPU
- Additional dedicated cores for the always-on activities.

Attempts by Moto to characterize this setup as a "quad core" are disingenuous/marketing-speak. This is a modified S4 Pro dual-core. That said, it sounds like a very well-optimized setup and plenty of power for folks like me upgrading from a Snapdragon S3.

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 14:35

13. Droid_X_Doug (Posts: 5570; Member since: 22 Dec 2010)


"Attempts by Moto to characterize this setup as a "quad core" are disingenuous/marketing-speak. This is a modified S4 Pro dual-core."

That is what I was thinking after reading 'between-the-lines'. One theory that I have been wondering about is whether Moto went with the S4 Pro because of camera processing constraints?

It gets curious-er and curious-er.

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 14:51

18. roldefol (Posts: 2858; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)


And I meant to say "octa core", not quad. But overall it sounds a lot like the setup TI had planned:

"OMAP 5 SoC uses a dual-core ARM Cortex-A15 CPU with two additional Cortex-M4 cores to offload the A15s in less computationally intensive tasks to increase power efficiency, two PowerVR SGX544MP graphics cores and a dedicated TI 2D BitBlt graphics accelerator, a multi-pipe display sub-system and a signal processor."

Given the tight relationship Moto had with TI, I wonder if this was originally intended to be an OMAP 5.

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 15:07

21. Droid_X_Doug (Posts: 5570; Member since: 22 Dec 2010)


"Given the tight relationship Moto had with TI, I wonder if this was originally intended to be an OMAP 5."

Didn't TI announce their departure from the mobile SoC business? If so, one has to wonder why Moto chose to hitch its wagon to an orphan? Which is why I keep wondering if their SoC choice was driven more by constraints from the camera side?

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 15:21

24. roldefol (Posts: 2858; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)


Phones have pretty long development phases. TI confirmed it was leaving the mobile SoC business in September 2012. So Motorola might have started developing around the planned OMAP 5, but would have quickly switched over to the Snapdragon line. I read about the camera angle too, that it was optimized for dual core. I was just speculating as to why Moto ended up going its own way while everyone else went straight-up Snapdragon 600/800 this year.

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 20:36

33. Dr.Phil (Posts: 893; Member since: 14 Feb 2011)


TI never really left the mobile chipset business. A lot of people misinterpreted them. They were really trying to say they were going to shift focus away from the mobile chipset industry to focus on a more broad agenda. They also stated they weren't going to pour in the money into the mobile chipset business like they did in the past. While it is true you haven't heard of any smartphones featuring an OMAP processor, it doesn't mean that there still isn't a chance of one being offered in the future (at least according to what TI has said).

However, you could be right that this may have been based on the TI OMAP 5. The OMAP 5 was suppose to have: "Two ARM Cortex-A15 MPCore processors capable of speeds up to 1.7 GHz each".

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 20:00

30. Berzerk000 (Posts: 3932; Member since: 26 Jun 2011)


To be fair, they never said they had an octa core processor. They said it was an octa core "Mobile Computing System."

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 20:09

31. roldefol (Posts: 2858; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)


Conveniently misleading the uninformed, who can't tell a core from a CPU from an SoC from a Computing System.

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 20:17

32. Berzerk000 (Posts: 3932; Member since: 26 Jun 2011)


Verizon specifies it. On the Droid Maxx pre-order page, this is what it says under memory/processor;

Processor: 1.7 GHz Dual Core with Quad–Core Graphics, attention hub, & 2GB of RAM

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 14:36 1

14. bigstrudel (Posts: 518; Member since: 20 Aug 2012)


Custom SoC is the way to go.

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 14:39 1

15. kanagadeepan (Posts: 638; Member since: 24 Jan 2012)


Marketing boss marketing... If Sammy can call its quadCore CPU (since only 4 core will be live at a time) as octa, Moto is bold enough to call DualCore CPU as X8...

Come on its 8core only if we incl the four sub-core in GPU, 2 extra for things which they are going to use extensively for marketing again...

posted on 24 Jul 2013, 01:38

36. Dark4o90 (Posts: 205; Member since: 20 Feb 2011)


:D that was my thought

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 14:44

17. gazmatic (Posts: 548; Member since: 06 Sep 2012)


sooooo...

it is a glorified dual core

hmmm

androidians will not be amused

they want an intel xeon processor in their phones

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 15:19

22. jove39 (Posts: 1258; Member since: 18 Oct 2011)


that egypt benchmark performance is really amazing!

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 15:21

23. Genersis (Posts: 177; Member since: 29 May 2013)


*Sigh of relief*
This gives me a lot more confidence that it will match midrange Snapdragon processors. As it basically is one. :P

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 17:16

29. google-apple (Posts: 34; Member since: 19 Jul 2013)


Interesting... Now as the reviews will start flowing in, we will find if all this really means something... :D

Still Motorola has done impressive job...

Waitin' for MotoX... ;)

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 20:56

34. marbovo (Posts: 621; Member since: 16 May 2013)


Active screen looks nice... it is good I wont have to push the side button to se the time

posted on 24 Jul 2013, 01:35

35. Dark4o90 (Posts: 205; Member since: 20 Feb 2011)


And they're talking about Samsung :D where exynos has 8 physical CPU cores - 2 pairs of 4, not counting the GPU cores

posted on 24 Jul 2013, 03:29

37. itsdeepak4u2000 (Posts: 2415; Member since: 03 Nov 2012)


Bring it on.

posted on 24 Jul 2013, 04:54

38. zamroni (Posts: 3; Member since: 11 Dec 2012)


If Moto simply choose Snapdragon 600 like other manufacturers, they would have launch these phones 4 months ago. Moto doesn't have selling volume like Apple, so this self-design chip only has little benefit if not disadvantageous time consuming.

posted on 28 Jul 2013, 08:13

39. EMOLOve1511 (Posts: 15; Member since: 13 Nov 2012)


HUMA or heterogeneous uniform memory access more advanced than Motorola and google could do.GPU & CPU access memory in parallel mode,so we can eliminate the inefficient memory channeling..

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