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

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ARM vs Intel

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

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

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