Snapdragon vs. Hummingbird vs. OMAP - the mobile CPU war beyond 1GHz

Moorestown – life without ARMs, and other players

Others ARMed and maybe dangerous:

There are still other big players in the mobile processing universe such as NVIDIA, Marvel and Freescale. Marvel's SoC Pantheon is on a mission to bring smartphones under the $100 price point, integrating also the baseband and RF connectivity. The same thing is doing MediaTek, which partnered both with Microsoft and with Google this year to produce affordable smartphones with its SoC for emerging markets. Freescale's i.MX535 chipset might be seen in tablets with more than one core, and the company is huge in the e-readers industry, for example. NVIDIA's upcoming Tegra 250 chipset relies heavily on the company's graphics calculations prowess, and is also a dual-core Cortex-A9 endeavor. NVIDIA claims ultra low-power requirements by including eight processors dedicated to different tasks, something that the other upcoming SoCs are doing as well. Buried in the Tegra's white papers, though, we found stats for 140 hours of audio on a standard 2000mAh battery, while the big boys are achieving 120 hours, but from a 1000mAh battery. Nevertheless, the current Tegra found its way into Microsoft's Zune player, and Tegra 250 has claimed intentions for the smartphone market as well, so our money would be on NVIDIA as the underdog, if they improve on the wireless connectivity front.

So far they are all niche players, but all of the above chipsets are supporting Android. They might be far from the already proven system-on-a-chip solutions for smartphones that TI, Samsung, Apple, and especially Qualcomm are offering, but a surprising development might come from any of them, and then some. Microsoft, for instance, just recently signed a licensing agreement with ARM Holdings for their chip architecture, which makes it a part of a select few to do so. Qualcomm, Marvel and Infineon have such agreements, and these companies all produce chips. Intel is rumored to purchase Infineon as what they are lacking to produce a Snapdragon type of SoC, is the wireless chips expertise.

Moorestown – life without ARMs:

Microsoft might be cheating on Intel with the ARM licensing, but we'd be remiss not to mention that the UK-based ARM Holdings are not the only kid on the block of mobile processing. Intel is the undisputed leader in desktop and notebook class processors, but it wants to dip its peak in the up and coming smartphone and tablet universe as well. With the introduction of the Moorestown platform based on the Atom Z6xx mobile CPU, Intel is trying to convince the major manufacturers that it is a viable contender on a clock-for-clock basis. The Atom CPU runs at 1.5 GHz, and is produced on 45nm from the start.

The reference hardware has been running Android or MeeGo - the Intel/Nokia offspring OS. Since it is powered by an Intel x86 series CPU, it might be easy to port existing Linux applications, so Nokia intends to use it for its pocket mobile computers, saving Symbian^4 for its new smartphone line. It will be interesting to see if Intel's claims of performance superiority over ARM and Snapdragon hold true, especially with regards to battery life. For that, though, we will have to wait for a production handset, not the demo hardware being tossed around recently. Nokia is thought to stick with ARM-based chipsets for its first MeeGo device, but it is seriously considering Intel's Moorestown if the test results prove positive for the platform.

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