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

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.



1. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

finally a well thought out and written article on PA. The only thing that constantly bugs me is the abreviation of million. mln? Can ya just use M like most people.. I constantly find myself sounding it out... lol. cant wait for the next gen. If the next hummingbird has a 30% jump in battery life, that should put it inline with the A4/hummingbird, not past it. My vibrant gets almost a full day with me rarely putting the thing down. How many snapdragon handsets can do that? lol

2. ilia1986 unregistered

Indeed - as I said over and over again - and continue to say once more - smartphones are the future. In several years almost every phone will be a smartphone. And the difference between the phone and the PC - aside from the screen size - will be minuscule

4. Trevsx1000

Posts: 33; Member since: Dec 08, 2009

I agree with it all except for the screen size, especially with the 4.3 inch Droid X being about 1/3rd the size of my netbook screen. Albeit a netbook and PC are different I think smartphones will soon turn into 'Computer-Phones' with more user-friendly software for their slightly smaller size. PC's getting shrunk and smartphones going no more than 5ish inches. Just my .02

6. ilia1986 unregistered

Yes well, you still will want to have that 50" screen in your flat to view stuff from your couch. But indeed - smartphones are the future. And everyone claiming that just because most people still use simple phones today and thus it is better to focus on them - needs to understand the above this.

3. Trevsx1000

Posts: 33; Member since: Dec 08, 2009

Well written, we need more articles like this!

5. breal525

Posts: 27; Member since: May 24, 2010

I found this to be very informative.

7. mc delta theta

Posts: 1; Member since: Jul 31, 2010

mmmmm.. what a beautiful article. This site would be top notch if they are not so biased towards apple's Ios in their phone reviews.Especially if it is a close contender. Well done Phone Arena. (I hope you are reading this !!)

8. Electrofreak

Posts: 1; Member since: Jul 31, 2010

It's always cool to see my articles listed as sources, thanks! :) I will say this, my "Ruminations" post (your "more" source link) missed the mark on a few things (essentially, I was wrong about why the 45 nm OMAP 3630 in the Droid X was performing so well in Quadrant) but I explain my mistakes and some new findings based upon an article on AndroidAndMe here: In addition, I encourage anyone who is interested to check out's review of the Droid X's SoC, it's VERY well informed: (Page 4 cuts to the meat about the hardware) Also, an older article about the Nexus One covers Snapdragon pretty well: (Again, this cuts to the important stuff on page 8) And I'm looking forward to their review of the Galaxy S phones and the Hummingbird SoC. A lot of new information has come out since I wrote my Hummingbird vs Snapdragon article in April and I'm sure they'll be able to uncover even more secrets that I couldn't tease out of technical whitepapers.

9. gridlock

Posts: 31; Member since: Jun 10, 2010

Yes, can't wait for a Cortex A9 handset with TI's new chips to be benchmarked against the 3rd gen Snapdragons!

10. rtimi26

Posts: 42; Member since: Mar 16, 2009

Did anyone notice that galaxy s is the best on the benchmark on any phone in the world, since the htc glacier isn't out yet. Samsung has really done a good job and can't wait for see what froyo would do.

11. jskrenes

Posts: 209; Member since: Dec 11, 2008

I also remember a year ago the folks at MIT were working on technology that would offer a 3-10x increase in battery life. I think people are pretty habituated to charging their phones once a day or every other day, so combining these two things we'll see larger screens, smaller or more unique form factors, and even more processor-intense features.

12. Mike w. unregistered

Really good article. Had alot well put together information. Smartphones are the future, and like someone said above the only difference in a few years between a PC and smartphone will be the screen size.

13. Lanced unregistered

Good general article. However, comparing battery hour between SoC is at best misleading. A poorly written driver can eat up all the battery no matter how good the SoC is at managing its power consumption. That is one of the reasons Apple does not support true multi-tasking + every application has to go through their inspection. Additionally, "Significantly improved battery life over the current generation" is not a guaranteed. At the transistor level, leakage power become dominant and is not easy to control. On top of that, newer generation of SoC has much more transistor than the older one. Take A9 for example, it has more transistors that the A8. Beside, compiling an A9 at 1.5GHz would nearly double the gate count compare to the same core at 1GHz. As software is not yet consolidated (various OS, graphic standards etc), SoC is still being built with many extra functions to cover all customers. As such, software role in manage these unused resource is critical in managing power consumption. Phone with the best software will win, and I think Apple proved that today.

14. BlackSirius16

Posts: 84; Member since: May 21, 2010

Apple proved that their software wont win? because that's all I say in the iPhone 4 plus i get better battery life out of my droid than my sister gets out of her iPhone 4 and im a power user

15. chmod421 unregistered

nice article like to see more of it i think in 5 years every comlicated needs will be doing by smartphones payments on shops and online shops asweel bank account attcahed to the simcards cash adwance from ATM's lot and lot mores even i can not emagine thanks for this well informative article

16. NYCkid unregistered

As a young man growing up in the Bronx, an impoverished place full of youth that rather have the most expensive sneakers and phone than a good meal or diapers for the baby, am inclined to say that yes, a phone that can eliminate high tech peripherals is awsome. But, these companies should be working on cutting cost for the consumer, not lining their pockets with the blood of the poor. There are probably more smartphones in low class urban areas than in the whole world. This article is supurb in all its facts and actually giving people the information to make an educated decision. Yet I will add that as a capitalist society, these huge companies should invest more into educating the consumer on money mannagement. The more expensive gadgets are purchased the higher the crime rate goes. Food for Thought.

19. mb1616 unregistered

Very informative article, thanks!

20. Knowname unregistered

and what of the DS, 3DS and PSP?

21. ian unregistered

Very nice article - best I've seen on the subject - thank you The writing has been on the wall for some time - but this article provides the outline for play out over the next 12-18 months as one poster stated - all the computing power needed by most people will be available in 'phones' with an hdmi (wireless?) to a bigger display (hdtv, monitor, pico projector, etc) - input can vary between a folding bt keyboard, kinect, etc desktop/laptop is not dead - I still need 3d CAD (e.g Solidworks) or eagle for pcb's, etc - but 'phone'w/ exte4nal display will be fine for majority of users in coming years

22. AanyaSharma

Posts: 1; Member since: Jan 03, 2012

I was researching about mobile phone processors and your article was of great help. There's not much info about mobile CPUs available on Internet, especially for a layman like me. Thank you so much.. Keep posting interesting stuff. There's one more detailed article about mobile CPUs and I would like to share the link -

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