Microsoft certifying Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 SoC for Windows Phone 8

Let’s not act surprised here folks. It was no secret that Qualcomm would still be the preferred SoC provider for Windows Phone 8 so the latest rumors that Microsoft is currently testing Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 aka the MSM8960 SoC for a future Windows Phone 8 Apollo handset isn’t the least surprising. The MSM8960 is the Dual-Core Krait beast featuring the Adreno 225 GPU which will be shipping in the LTE version of the HTC One X Android handset and from the looks of it Microsoft my have rightfully decided to skip the S3 generation in favor of the S4 for WP8 in part because the later has built-in LTE radios and because this particular SoC will also be Qualcomm’s first Windows 8 certified platform (even though the Windows 8 version may be the Snapdragon S4 Pro with the Adreno 320 GPU).

Now this may sound worrying to current Windows Phone owners who have only Snapdragon S1 ans S2 powered devices but as far as we know those handset shouldn’t have any problem running Windows Phone 8 later this year.

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Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Krait based SoC details unveiled

Those of you following closely the SoC market will be happy to learn that Qualcomm has finally unveiled technical details of its much anticipated SnapDragon S4 Krait based SoC yesterday in a relatively in-depth white paper that everyone can download. Krait based SoC are in track to hit the market in the first half of 2012 with the first MSM8960 dual 1.5Ghz core SoC later followed by the MSM8930, MSM8228 and MSM8974. I posted the full specifications back in July here but Qualcomm’s legal department laid the ban hammer on me and asked me to take down the full pdf. Anyway, here’s what you can expect from the first  28nm mobile SoC (using TSMC’s 28nm LP process) to hit the market which will also so be Windows 8 compliant thanks to it’s DirectX 9.3 support:

• Dual 1.5-1.7 GHz Krait/ L2 1MB
• 2x500MHz LPDDR2
• LTE FDD/TDD cat3(8960); DC-HSPA(8270) 21HSPA+(8260A) TD-SCDMA (8960, 8260A)
• 1080p HD Video@30fps; 3D 20Mpix
• Adreno 225 3D/2D 125M tri./sec (DX9.3)

The Krait CPU architecture is Qualcomm’s own variant of the AMR Cortex A8 but so heavily tweaked and changed that it can’t really be comparable to other competing Cortex A9 or future A15 CPUs. In terms of raw performances it’s will most probably be competitive with the A9 chipsets (if not better) but may lag a bit behind the upcoming higher clocked Cortex A15 SoCs which will come out in late 2012. Krait’s powers efficiency will probably help it in this case but this has yet to be seen. The big advantage that Qualcomm has is its time to market compared to all the new generation chipsets for its competitors which for the most part will all be using bigger processes (40nm or 35nm, only the the TI OMAP will be on 28nm). Because of this, we may have another QSD8250 situation next year where most of the Android handsets will be based on this chipset simply because it will be out at the right time (more than 6 months ahead of its most direct competition).

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Qualcomm Adreno 205 vs Adreno 220 / HTC Sensation vs HTC Flyer, HTC Desire HD and Samsung Galaxy S

Here’s s quick compilation of benchmark results comparing the Qualcomm Adreno 205 GPU vs Adreno 220 GPU found in the HTC Sensation (as part of the MSM8260 SoC). The are several things to note here: First, the Adreno 205 found in the HTC Flyer and HTC Desire HD are most probably not clocked at the same speed (The MSM8255 is clocked at 1Ghz in the Desire HD compared to1.5Ghz in the HTC Flyer). Secondly, THe screen resolution are different on each handsets:

- HTC Desire HD: 800X480
- Samsung Galaxy S: 800×480
- HTC Sensation: 960×540
- HTC Flyer: 1024×600

Thirdly, the driver versions are obviously not the same on all devices so you shouldn’t take those results as granted, they are just an indication of how these GPUs stack up against each other in synthetic benchmarks. The now famous and awesome PowerVR SGX540 is also included in the mix. Check the results after the break:

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Qualcomm simplifies Snapdragon branding

Qualcomm decided to simply it’s Snapdragon SoC naming convention today and make it easier for the average Joe to distinguish one SoC from another. Here’s how it will now look like:

- Snapdragon System 1 aka S1 Class: QSD8250 (65nm 1Ghz Scorpion CPU + Adreno 200 GPU) and the new MSM7227, MSM7627,MSM7225, MSM7625
- Snapdragon System 2 aka S2 Class: MSM7X30, MSM8X55, APQ8055 (45nm 800Mhz-1.4Ghz Scorpion CPU Adreno 205 GPU)
- Snapdragon System 3 aka S3 Class: APQ8060, MSM8260, MSM8660, QSD8672 (45nm up to 1.5GHE Dual-Core Scorpion CPU Adreno 220 GPU)
- Snapdragon System 4 aka S3 Class: All the upcoming Krait based SoC configurations MSM8228, MSM8930, MSM8960, MSM8974, APQ8064 ( 28nm up to 2.5Ghz Dual and Quad Scorpion CPU + Adreno 305, Adreno 320 GPU)

So nothing really ground breaking here and I personally prefer to refer to an Soc by its really name rather that something relatively vague like S3 Class.

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New Qualcomm 2011 / 2012 roadmap and SoC specifications: MSM8960, MSM8930, MSM8974 and Adreno 320

Remember the old Qualcomm 2011/2012 roadmap I posted about a couple of weeks ago? Well, here’s a new more up-to-date one that just appeared on the net. The internal PDF document is principally about the company’s LTE chipsets and technology but there’s also so new info about the upcoming Krait based 28nm dual-core SoCs that will start shipping in less that 6 months.

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Qualcomm MDP MSM8660 MSM8260 promotional videos

Ready for some totally useless promotional videos showing of the hardware capabilities of the Qualcomm MDP8660 development platform? This is essentially the development handset used to build apps for the newly released MSM8X60 SoC (MSM8260 the CDMA version the MSM8660) which is going to power the HTC EVO 3D, HTC Sensation and HP TouchPad. The MDP is available for purchase through Bsquare (just like the previous MDP platforms and Windows Mobile 6.X licenses…) for $1.350. The second video will also show the current MSM8X55 SoC clocked at 1.4ghz (powering HTC’s current high-end handsets @1Ghz and future Windows Phone 7 devices) going against what looks like and Tegra 2 powered LG Optimux 2X. But this looks kinda bogus as I’m certain that with the right drivers, a Tegra 2 can perfectly and smoothly playback 720P Flash videos unlike what is seen below.

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Qualcomm roadmap detailed: Quad Core CPU and GPU chipsets coming later this year

I just came across a internal Qualcomm presentation (dated March 2011 from an Android event in Korean) detailing the company’s current SoC roadmap and comparing its Scorpion CPU architecture against its Cortex-A9 competitors. keep in mind that this document is obviously biased towards Qualcomm’s own products so take all the claims presented with a grain of salt but there are quite a few interesting pieces of information in there.

First lest start with the roadmap pictured above. As you can see the first chips based on the new Krait micro-architecture (MSM8930, MSM8960, APQ8064 and the unknown MSM8270) are only expected to appear/sample (?) at the end of this year. The initial press release sated that the first MSM8960 samples were expected in Q2 2011 but I4m guessing that things may a been delayed a bit (or the “availability” mentioned in today’s document is actually OEM availability). The MSM8X55 which was first launched in the HTC Desire HD is now been touted as having 1.4Ghz CPU (up from the 1Ghz clock currently used by most OEMs) and also now apparently supports Stereoscopic 3D play/rec (this is the first time I see this features mentioned on thee 8X55 so it may be only possible on the 1.4Ghz version). This 1.4Ghz clocked MSM8X55 will first appear in the Samsung Galaxy S Plus in Europe.

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T-Mobile HTC Sensation 4G announced in the US

Hot on the heels of the European announcement comes the US bound version of the device which is headed to T-Mobile as the HTC Sensation 4G. So hat’s the difference ? Most probably nothing at all. T-Mobile’s 4G means HSPA + and given that the European HTC Sensation also support’s this then we are essentially looking at the same piece of hardware. Anyway, Full press release after the break:

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HTC Sensation Hardware Specifications and release date


Here are the hardware specifications of he HTC Sensation android handset. As previously expected this device is essentially and 3D-less version of the HTC EVO 3D. The Sensation will start shipping in mid-May on Vodafone’s network across Europe: 12 May online and 17 May in retail shops (the carrier has a one month exclusive). The rest of the European carriers will get it in June. Specs after the break:

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Official HTC Sensation presentation videos

No need to wait for the official announcement because here are several short videos of the new Sense UI found on the HTC Sensation and the handset’s hardware. You will notice that the weather animation now looks like the one found on the Windows Phone 7 version of the application and that most of everything else looks like the Sense found on the HTC EVO 3D and HTC Flyer. Hit the break to check out all the official videos:

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HTC Sensation aka HTC Pyramid to be announced later today

Qualcomm and Vodafone have apparently jumped the gun and already spilled the beans about HTC’s upcoming announcement. The HTC Sensation also known as the HTC Pyramid is going to be today’s headliner at HTC’s Lodon press event. As previously discussed the Sensation will essentially feature the same hardware as the HTC EVO 3D but without the 3 screen and 3D cameras. So you will have a Quaocmm MSM8260 with Adreno 220 GPU, QHD (960 x 540) 4.3″ SLCD screen. More info to come later today so stay tuned.

 

First Adreno 220 benchmarks show that it is a beast

Qualcomm’s Adreno GPU’s have always been seen as being a sub-par graphics compared to competing offerings from Imagination (PowerVR) and others like NVIDIA’s Tegra. This was essentially true with the Adreno 200 on Windows Mobile and Android mainly because of poor driver quality. Things are a bit different on Windows Phone 7 where the Adreno 200 is the only currently supported GPU, thanks to the tight integration with the OS and relatively good support provided by Microsoft. You can check out my recent Fable Coin Golf video to see that some pretty nice things can be done with it.

The Adreno 205 which is part of the MSM8X55 SoC package is a step forward in terms of performance and can be comparable in some case with the current top dog, the PowerVR SGX540 as seen in my benchmarks here. Qualcomm has also recently released new drivers for the 205 which slightly improves its performance compared to what you see in my benches (they are the ones used by Sony Ericsson in the Xperia Play).

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HTC EVO 3D hardware specifications

HTC has just officially announced and unveiled their highest end and most powerful product ever: the HTC EVO 3D. The only handset comparable to it is the LG Optimus 3D which has essentially the same features but is differentiated by the chipset and SoC used to power the device. Contrary to the Optimus 3D which uses a TI OMAP4 4430 the HTC EVO 3D is using Qualcomm’s latest dual-core Cortex A8 SoC the MSM8660 and its Adreno 220 GPU which I showed you in action here. It has a similar 4.3inch qHD 960×540 glasses free 3D display (parallax barrier) has 2 5Mpix cameras on the back for shooting 720P 3D video, a 1.3Mpix front facing cam and HDMI out via the micron USB connector for 1080P (2D) and 720P (3D). In terms of hardware this device is a real beast. The device will be running Android 2.3 Gingerbread at first with the latest version of HTC Sense on top.

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HTC EVO 3D & HTC EVO View specifications partially leaked

CTIA is shaping up to be big for Sprint who is apparently scheduled to unveiled its new line up of WiMax enabled Android devices on March 22. The first one is going to be the HTC EVO 3D which seems to be the CDMA/WiMAX version of the long rumored HTC Pyramid. The EVO 3D will be powered by an MSM8660 SoC and its Adreno 220 GPU which you can see in action in my MWC video here. It will also pack 1GB of RAM, 4GB of ROM and and glasses free auto-stereoscopic 4.3 qHD 960 x 450 3D display , similar to the one found on the LG Optimus 3D which I showed you here. It will also have a 1730Mha battery, 1080P hdmi output for regular 2D content and 720P 3D output, a 5mpix camera & 1.3 Mpix front facing one.

As I said before; Windows Phone 7 doesn’t necessarily need more powerful hardware right now but when you look at the specifications above (and most other high-end Android devices to be released soon) and factor in the fact that Microsoft is being sluggish with the OS updates I personally  think that most people are not going to buy an WP7 handset in the coming months. Now if Microsoft was more reactive then things would be different but only 2 updates a year? That’s not going to cut it.

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Qualcomm MSM8660 and Adreno 220 GPU demo

Here’s a nice video I shot yesterday at Qualcomm’s booth showing the Adreno 220 GPU in action running an OpenGL ES 2.0 demo developed by Southend interactive (on Android). The development device that you see hooked up to the HDTV via the mini-HDMI port packs Qualcomm’s MSM8660 dual-core CPU and Adreno 220 GPU that is going to be found in HP Palm’s TouchPad (under the APQ8060 name) and apparently the HTC Pyramid aka Sensation / (note that the output displayed on the TV is WVGA content upscaled to 1080P). I had a small chat with a couple of Qualcomm guys about their future SoCs and also the Windows Phone 7. I was once again told that they were working really closely with Microsoft right now on current Adreno 200 support (HLSL/ Programmable Shader support in XNA should by coming this year) and future Chassis which are being discussed and finalized right now (that’s what I got from the hints I was given). MS apparently is also wants to support higher resolution screens so newer SoCs are going to be certified. Because the of the Adreno’s close architectural similarities with the Xbox360 Xenos GPU the company can squeeze more out of it compared on Windows Phone 7 compared to Google on Android (there’s also the fact the Microsoft has total control over the API which is Direct3D Mobile).

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Microsoft planning to announce new Windows Phone 7 hardware requirements at MWC


File this under the rumor tag but I’m hearing that Microsoft is about to announce new hardware requirements (Chassis specifications) for Windows Phone 7 next Monday in Barcelona during Mobile World Congress. I unfortunately don’t have any details on the changes to come but you may remember that Paul Thurrot claimed that NoDo will integrate support for Qualcomm’s MSM7X30 SoCs (the company’s current mid-range smartphone offering). If this is the only change then it would be really disappointing given that the only major difference between this SoC and the QSD8250 found in the current Windows Phone 7 handsets is the Adreno 205 GPU. But I don’t think that this alone would warrant a chassis change (both SoCs fit into the Chassis 1 specifications). We can probably expect things like Gyroscope support or even Front Facing camera but as of right now this is all speculation.

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Qualcomm MSM8260 and MSM8660 with Adreno 220 GPU shown on video

During last weeks CES Qualcomm publicly demonstrated for the first time the upcoming MSM8260 and MSM8660 SoC which is expected to be in retail devices later this year. The Dual -Core Scorpion powered SoC started sampling back in June and is basically an evolution of the current single chip SoC available in smartphone powered by the QSD8X50, MSM8X55 and MSM7X30 but with two Scorpion CPUs clocked a 1.2Ghz and the new Adreno 220 GPU. People are quit to trash Qualcomm because of most of the smartphone out on the market which are powered by their chips usually don’t perform as good as advertised. Unfortunately what most don’t realize is that this is mostly due to the software (the OS) and the drivers used by the OEMs. Take an HTC HD2 and try to play a 720P video on it and it will be impossible. Now try the same on any of the Windows Phone 7 devices out there (which have exactly the same specs) and you will see that the now “old” QSD8250 can playback the720P videos without breaking a sweat (you will have to bypass the Zune Software to do this as explained in my recent Windows Phone 7 Review).Some for the GPU performance: check out my Adreno 205 vs SGX540 benchmark to see the interesting results. Anyway, hit the break to see the MSM8660 in action (it can playback 3D HD video!):

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