New Qualcomm Snapdragon chip offers hi-def video

In addition, users can expect faster app loading time and longer battery life on their smartphones and tablet devices once Qualcomm's dual-core 1.5GHz processor comes off production lines this year-end, says analyst.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor on

Qualcomm's dual-core Snapdragon chip will bring better user experience for owners of smartphones and tablet devices, with features such as hi-definition video and longer battery life once it rolls off production lines later this year, an analyst predicted.

Ganesh Ramamoorthy, principal research analyst at Gartner, described the new Snapdragon chip, also known as QSD8672, as one that is based on an ARM v7 core with a dual-core chipset built on 45-nanometer process technology and able to hit up to 1.5 gigahertz (GHz).

The result is smartphones with longer battery life, faster Web browsing and app access, as well as full support for 3G mobile broadband connectivity, he told ZDNet Asia in his e-mail.

More importantly, smartphones fitted with the dual-core chip will have 1080-pixel video playback, which will mean hi-definition video on one's mobile phone--a feat that "has not been achieved so far"--noted Ramamoorthy.

Furthermore, the processor supports DDR2, DDR3 and HDMI interfaces, which means the beneficiaries will not be restricted to just smartphone makers, but also to tablet PC makers, said the Gartner analyst.

"The biggest benefit for manufacturers is that the processor allows the ability to build in a lot more functions on a single chip, which then reduces cost [compared with] using multiple chips for different functions," noted Ramamoorthy.

Tech blog site PC World had earlier reported on Qualcomm saying that its fastest Snapdragon dual-core chip will start shipping in the fourth quarter of 2010, with devices running the chip "possibly launching" by year-end.

Elaborating, Mark Frankel, vice president of product management for Qualcomm CDMA Technologies, said in the article that devices with the chip baked in are realistically expected to turn up in the market "early next year" but aggressive vendors could launch products "by Christmas" this year.

The PC World report went on to mention that Qualcomm's competitor, Texas Instruments, had also announced plans to introduce its OMAP4430 dual-core processor for smartphones and tablets by end-2010.

In a separate e-mail interview with ZDNet Asia, Frankel said Qualcomm is already "actively engaged with multiple customers" on the chip and its business possibilities.

"The QSD8672 builds on the momentum already started by the QSD8x50 chipsets, which are in 20-plus commercial devices today, as well as the QSD8660 chip that [was] our first dual-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon chipset," he added.

He said users can expect improved computing power such as high-end multimedia performance and advanced connectivity capabilities, which will result in better overall user experience from future devices powered by Qualcomm's chip.

In terms of software, Gartner's Ramamoorthy said there are "limitless opportunities" for developers to tap on the chip's improved capabilities. Applications tailored for mobile browsing and personal productivity tools are just some examples of future software innovations, and it all depends on the imagination of both the handset maker and developers, he added.

As for which company will be the early adopters of the chip, the analyst said handset makers that make use of Google's Android operating system (OS), Symbian and Windows Mobile will be among the pacesetters in the Asia-Pacific region.

When asked which OS the dual-core Snapdragon chip will support, Qualcomm's Frankel replied: "Qualcomm [currently] supports [platforms such as] Android, Windows Phone, webOS and BlackBerry. The company also has plans to support Chrome OS. For the QSD8672 specifically, we will evaluate our customers' priorities in order to decide which mobile OS to support."

ZDNet Asia contacted other smartphone makers such as HTC and Sony Ericsson as well as Android mobile OS creator Google, but they declined to comment.

Breathing new life into smartbooks
The chip is also a reflection of the company's continued focus on high CPU performance that is optimized for efficient power consumption and longer battery life. This explains why the QSD8672 chip will be aimed at "enabling larger form-factor smartbook devices", the Qualcomm executive stated.

The chipmaker became a smartbook advocate in June last year, and had then described the device category as mobile computing devices that boast screens of 5 to 12 inches and designed for viewing Web video clips and e-mail.

Besides Qualcomm's own smartbook range, the QSD8672 chip may also inject life into fellow smartbook proponent Lenovo's product range.

According to tech news site Digitimes, Lenovo had decided to upgrade its specifications from Qualcomm's single-core 1GHz processor to the new dual-core 1.5GHz processors--including the QSD8672 chip--and will delay the official launch of its Skylight smartbook and IdeaPad U1 Hybrid "until the end of the year".

When quizzed about its intentions for the Qualcomm processor in these two devices, a Lenovo spokesperson told ZDNet Asia that the reason for the launch delay lies in the company's decision to rework the devices using Google's Android OS.

"Lenovo's intention is that Android will serve as the operating system for our entire range of future mobile Internet devices including smartphones, the Skylight and the IdeaPad U1 Hybrid," he stated in his e-mail. "We believe our move to an Android-based OS across our entire product line will increase our opportunity to drive the growth of mobile Internet devices."

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