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

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39 Comments

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:http://gfxbench.com/device.jsp?D=Google%20Nexus%204 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

19. sorcio46

Posts: 435; Member since: Jul 27, 2011

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

12. MrPhilo

Posts: 64; Member since: Feb 25, 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.

20. sorcio46

Posts: 435; Member since: Jul 27, 2011

That's what I have taken

26. zennacko unregistered

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

10. yowanvista

Posts: 341; Member since: Sep 20, 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

16. Birds

Posts: 1172; Member since: Nov 21, 2011

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

27. yowanvista

Posts: 341; Member since: Sep 20, 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.

28. Birds

Posts: 1172; Member since: Nov 21, 2011

OK, thanks.

25. konnor

Posts: 30; Member since: Apr 25, 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.

2. ahhxd717

Posts: 332; Member since: Dec 08, 2011

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

3. JojoGo101

Posts: 211; Member since: Dec 17, 2012

Wow, just wow.

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.

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.

11. roldefol

Posts: 4744; 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: 4744; 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: 4744; 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: 2389; 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: 4744; 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

14. bigstrudel

Posts: 602; Member since: Aug 20, 2012

Custom SoC is the way to go.

15. kanagadeepan

Posts: 1260; 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

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