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

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:


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



39. EMOLOve1511

Posts: 15; Member since: Nov 13, 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..

38. zamroni

Posts: 4; Member since: Dec 11, 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.

37. itsdeepak4u2000

Posts: 3718; Member since: Nov 03, 2012

Bring it on.

35. Dark4o90

Posts: 205; Member since: Feb 20, 2011

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

34. marbovo

Posts: 658; Member since: May 16, 2013

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

29. google-apple

Posts: 34; Member since: Jul 19, 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... ;)

23. Genersis

Posts: 219; Member since: May 29, 2013

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

22. jove39

Posts: 2154; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

that egypt benchmark performance is really amazing!

17. gazmatic

Posts: 822; Member since: Sep 06, 2012

sooooo... it is a glorified dual core hmmm androidians will not be amused they want an intel xeon processor in their phones

15. kanagadeepan

Posts: 1292; Member since: Jan 24, 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...

36. Dark4o90

Posts: 205; Member since: Feb 20, 2011

:D that was my thought

14. bigstrudel

Posts: 621; Member since: Aug 20, 2012

Custom SoC is the way to go.

11. roldefol

Posts: 4745; Member since: Jan 28, 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.

13. Droid_X_Doug

Posts: 5993; Member since: Dec 22, 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.

18. roldefol

Posts: 4745; Member since: Jan 28, 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.

21. Droid_X_Doug

Posts: 5993; Member since: Dec 22, 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?

24. roldefol

Posts: 4745; Member since: Jan 28, 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.

33. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2578; Member since: Feb 14, 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".

30. Berzerk000

Posts: 4275; Member since: Jun 26, 2011

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

31. roldefol

Posts: 4745; Member since: Jan 28, 2011

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

32. Berzerk000

Posts: 4275; Member since: Jun 26, 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

6. moronman66

Posts: 162; Member since: Jan 09, 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.

4. Isaiah-54 unregistered

...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.

7. NexusPhan

Posts: 632; Member since: Jul 11, 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.

3. JojoGo101

Posts: 211; Member since: Dec 17, 2012

Wow, just wow.

2. ahhxd717

Posts: 332; Member since: Dec 08, 2011

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

1. sorcio46

Posts: 435; Member since: Jul 27, 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

5. Birds

Posts: 1172; Member since: Nov 21, 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.

8. sorcio46

Posts: 435; Member since: Jul 27, 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: It means that xxx is 320 so it could have 4x Adreno 320 GPUs :D!

9. TylerGrunter

Posts: 1544; Member since: Feb 16, 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

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