NVIDIA Tegra 2, Samsung Exynos, and Qualcomm Snapdragon the 3rd: the dual-core chipsets and beyond

ARM vs Intel

All of the above chipsets are based on design architecture licensed from ARM Holdings. Last August the company announced its plans for the future with the Cortex A-15, codenamed "Eagle". The current high-end ARM chips are 32-bit, and able to address only 4GB of RAM, while the Eagle upgrade will allow for a mobile OS to address up to 1TB of memory.

This will make hardware-based virtualization possible, which might mean Android and Windows Phone 7 in one and the same handset, or carriers easily porting a different operating system to the same hardware, as the market conditions shift. Cortex-A15 can be produced with the 32nm/28nm, and even 20nm processes further down the road, meaning even faster chipsets with better power consumption.

Cortex-A15 can reach 2.5GHz with its four cores variant, but these will be mainly for cloud servers and wireless towers; smartphones and tablets will receive the power-sipping 1-1.5GHz iteration, served on one or two cores. ARM also stated that Eagle will be backwards compatible with the existing ARM architecture, so all current mobile operating systems and applications should be running with ease on the new hardware.

Texas Instruments is the first that licensed Eagle, and is already promising a 60% reduction in power requirements, compared to the OMAP chipsets based on Cortex-A9. Eagle, of course, won't enter devices at least until 2013, but just the thought of five times the speed with double the battery life of existing smartphones will keep us warm until then. Other partners that worked with ARM on the Eagle developments have been Samsung and ST-Ericsson, so we will surely be seeing the chipset in Samsung, and maybe Nokia devices, when the time comes.

ARM encroaching onto the server space should raise the hairs on the neck of even the juggernaut Intel. If they can design a mobile chipset with much lower energy footprint, but comparable performance, and way more capable integrated graphics, Intel should be very, very worried.

Well, it isn’t. Intel bought the Germans from Infineon, which make baseband radios, similar to Qualcomm, in an effort to make its own mobile walled garden. The chip giant even managed to spin in a positive way the jaw-dropping announcement that Microsoft will be cheating on Intel’s x86 architecture with the young Prince ChARMing. Intel’s CEO said that it is a good thing, since Microsoft has apparently rolled up its sleeves to create a touch-optimized and scalable Windows 8 from scratch. If Microsoft is aiming to use it in mobile devices, with the same stack, but different interfaces, depending on what gizmo Windows 8 appears in, he said, then Intel will be there with suitable chipsets to power that transition, all the way to smartphones.

Paul Otellini also noted that using Intel's mobile chips will lead to booting multiple operating systems on one device, and he seems to know what he is talking about. Not to forget Intel just settled its last major patent lawsuit with NVIDIA for $1.5 billion, and the deal involved some cross licensing of know-how, so its integrated graphics will only be getting better. If the Windows 7-running Evolve III Maestro, Samsung Sliding PC 7 Series, and Asus Eee Pad EP121 tablets are a harbinger of things to come when Windows 8 lands next year, we wouldn’t be so brave to write Intel off the mobile game. Here are video demos of the Eee Pad EP121 12" powerhouse, followed by one of the cool Samsung Sliding PC 7 Series slate, which lasts 9 hours on a charge:

The Evolve III Maestro, on the other hand, costs as much as an iPad, and triple-boots Windows 7, Android and MeeGO, with finger-friendly interfaces on top of all three, while managing to squeeze eight hours of Windows-ing with the dual-core Intel Oak Trail chipset and sixteen on Android. Next year these might go full day with Windows 8 and Intel's next mobile CPUs, and that’s all we want - a catfight between ARM and Intel, bringing us awesome silicon (not Pam Anderson awesome, but give them time).

What next?

These next year chipsets will be cast by the blacksmiths in the foundries with the 28/32nm methods, inherited from their forefathers, but what’s even further down the pipeline, inquiring minds want to know? Well, the 20nm technology beckons us all, and Samsung just teamed with IBM’s researchers to coin the production methodologies for the next generation of smartphones. ARM is entering a similar collaboration with IBM, but for processors made with the even smaller 14nm technology, all for smartphones and tablets. The step after these is so hard to craft, that Samsung turned the other way, and formed an alliance with Intel and Toshiba, to try and achieve the elusive 10nm process.

These are all probably part of 5-year plans, all the way to 2016, so hopefully we won’t have to update this article every six months or so - wishful thinking, we know. By that time our phones will be foldable, beaming our holograms at videoconferences, and always connected to all the knowledge and people in the world, as well as our robotic vacuum cleaners at home; all the while we charge them wirelessly about once a month, and pay the equivalent of two beers to the carriers. Again, we wish, but if we don’t go back to rubbing stick and stone for fire in 2012, the mobile future is so bright we are squinting.

source: Anandtech, B3D



1. Seylan unregistered

So once we buy the latest smartphone with the best CPU/GPU available, a NEWER CPU thats even better, will be available just a few months later.... I certanley don't want to feel outdated, why don't they gives us ARM A-15 based platforms and duel core intel platforms straight away!?

2. calamazoo unregistered

it actually takes about a year before a new generation reaches actual phones, so you are relatively safe :-) plus there is still not much need for dual-core but full hd video, which you can do with one core too, like the Samsung Infuse for att. It will be the second half of 2011, and mainly the holidays when dual-core will be all the rage...

3. Hello-dirt

Posts: 102; Member since: May 02, 2010

I like the info in this article, very informative and virtually free of bias. Thanks. What I am still waiting for is a phone that harnesses a chip similar to the 3 core (i forgot the brand) version that operates an efficient single core for typical phone use but kicks the other high power dual-cores when it plugs into a laptop-like base, thus becoming the touchpad for the laptop.The laptop-like base can be the place for all the connections, storage (SSD or HDD), and extra battery to allow for all day operation. In the end, one will have a light-er phone with a lightweight 12-14" laptop base that is easy to carry. Why have a powerful phone, a powerful tablet, and a powerful laptop? combine the 1st and 3rd and get rid of those silly tablets!

4. TheEclectic

Posts: 77; Member since: Sep 23, 2009

Is the extra RAM the reason the Atrix outperformed the Bionic in that generic benchmark? It should would be nice if they gave the Bionic 1GB of RAM instead of the 500mb reported.

5. RVM unregistered

no word about ST-Ericsson U8500 :x

6. Hybr1dz

Posts: 7; Member since: Sep 24, 2010

A little miffed that the Atrix has twice the memory of the Bionic, and the benchmark seems to reflect this as both phones are nearly identical in all other hardware specs. I like Atrix's form factor much better than the Bionic too but it's still not enough for me to switch from VZW to ATT. Also didn't know the iPhone 3GS produced higher frame rates compared to the iPhone 4. Is this because the iPhone 4's native resolution it was tested on is higher than the 3GS?

7. TtheDude unregistered

Gotta appreciate the new chipsets hitting the market.....but it's kinda funny that Moto is putting dual core into a Froyo device. The benefits of dual core chip sets will not be realized with Android until 2.5 Icecream. Considering the Bionic is launching with Froyo and will only be upgradable to Gingerbread it's nice to see a manufacturer wasting the $$$ on a marketing ploy. I would at least wait until Gingerbread hits and then hope you get the OTA (over the Air) upgrade sooner rather than later.

8. cheetah2k

Posts: 2315; Member since: Jan 16, 2011

Just as the PC race and the multi core CPU race evolved between AMD and Intel, another race has started in the handheld arena. This year is going to be simply brilliant as we get closer to having desktop power in the palm of our hands. With this in mind, I reckon holding out till 2H of 2011 before jumping onto the dual core bandwagon to make sure you get the best bang for your buck indeed!

9. paxttel unregistered

great article thanks :) @RVM +1 :(

10. steven999 unregistered

For the person saying he dose not want to feel outdated, you just have Status Anxiety.(look it up if you don't know what it means). You can get professional help for it.

11. Teko unregistered

Please, update with ZiiLABS ZMS-20 / ZMS-40.

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