6 Comments

Summary:

Texas Instruments has ceded much of the mobile chip market to Qualcomm and Nvidia, but is ready to challenge with a new OMAP 4 chip. The dual-core processor paired with a PowerVR graphics core can power smartphones, tablets and even notebook computers running Linux or Windows.

ti-omap4-mobile-featured

Texas Instruments today announced a new chip for mobile devices that boasts an 80 percent boost in web browsing performance along with 2.5 times better graphics. The OMAP4470 processor improves upon the current TI chips in use for smartphones and tablets, but is also poised to power laptops that run on either the open source Linux platform or Microsoft’s Windows operating system; a version of which has already been demonstrated on mobile processors. With the new OMAP4470 TI hopes to better compete Qualcomm’s Snapdragon and Nvidia’s Tegra 2, each of which power a far greater number of smartphones and tablets.

To get a feel for the chip’s capabilities, as well as where it fits within TI’s product roadmap, I spoke by phone with Mark Granger, who is in charge of the OMAP product platform marketing.  Granger first covered the basics: two ARM Cortex-A9 cores running at up to 1.8 GHz per core, a hardware composition engine with dedicated 2-D graphics core and Imagination Technologies’ PowerVR SGX544 GPU.

I was curious about the timing and strategy of the product, mainly because Texas Intstruments has already announced a successor to the OMAP 4 chip line. In February, TI introduced its OMAP 5, then saying that it too would be sampling in the second half of 2011. There’s no expected overlap, Granger said during our phone call. “Both the OMAP4470 and OMAP 5 chips will sample in the second half of 2011, but products using the 4470 are expected in the first half of 2012, while products using OMAP 5 are slated for the second half of next year,” he told me.

That timeline makes sense for a few reasons. First, the OMAP4470 has the same pin configuration as existing OMAP 4 chips, such as those used in the BlackBerry PlayBook. That means device manufacturers currently using an OMAP 4 can quickly upgrade their hardware with little development cost. Second, while Microsoft hasn’t yet announced when it would have a version of Windows available for ARM processors, it’s widely expected to be some time next year. Whether that happens in the first or second half of 2012, TI is covered by both the new OMAP4470 or the future OMAP 5 chips to power such computers.

Unlike Nvidia’s upcoming Kal-El chip, which uses a dozen GPU cores, the new OMAP4470 has a single GPU core. On paper that may be a huge difference, but the TI chip sounds capable from a graphics perspective. The display subsystem can drive as many as three high-definition displays and up to 2048×1536 resolution, plus it supports stereoscopic 3-D visuals.

In addition, the SGX544 graphics component supports display technologies used by both mobile and desktop environments, such as DirectX, OpenGL ES 2.0, Open VG 1.1, and Open CL 1.1. Granger told me the CPU can handle much of the base user interface visuals, which frees up the GPU for more intensive visual tasks, “balancing out the horsepower” of the chip, according to Granger.

  1. Lucian Armasu Thursday, June 2, 2011

    It won’t compete with Tegra 2. It will have to compete with Tegra 3 and the dual core Krait from Qualcomm, and both seem more powerful than this. Also, I think Nvidia might keep their 6 month schedule that they first intended for Tegra 2, when they wanted to release Tegra 2 3D, but they didn’t because Tegra 2 appeared so late in “popular” products, and Tegra 3 is coming out soon. But we might see a Tegra 3.5 in tablets early 2012 that will compete with OMAP 4470 and Krait dual core for tablets.

    I think TI has already had small reception so far, and I think they’ll only fall further behind. They can’t really seem to keep up with either Nvidia or Qualcomm. I think Nvidia and Qualcomm will be the Intel and AMD of the ARM chip market a couple of years from now.

    As a side note about Windows 8, have you noticed that it will use this year’s chips? It’s going to come out late 2012 for Tegra 3, OMAP 4470 and dual core Krait, while I think we’ll see Tegra 4, OMAP 5 and quad core Krait for Android devices around the same time or earlier. It looks like Windows 8 ARM devices will be one generation behind Android devices, just like WP7 phones.

    Share
  2. pk de cville Thursday, June 2, 2011

    Looking at it from 30,000 ft, how does this chip differ from Apple’s A5?

    Share
    1. The biggest difference is that this will run in non-Apple devices. ;) I’m joking of course. 30,000 foot view: the current A5 clock speed tops out at 1 GHz per processing core, while this OMAP ramps up to 1.8 GHz per core. On the GPU side, both use a PowerVR SGX 5 series, but the OMAP uses a more current version.

      Share
      1. “A5 clock speed tops out at 1 GHz per processing core”

        because Apple decided that was the best tipping point between performance and battery life so your point was?

        Share
        1. I wasn’t trying to make a point or pass judgment on the A5; I was answering the question on the difference between the chips.

          Share
      2. pk de cville Thursday, June 2, 2011

        This chip’s expected in the 1st 1/2 of 2012 and Apple will probably have the A6 out for Xmas 2012.

        Apple’s going to want to pour on the power to be best in class in power, battery life, price, and all the other measures.

        Share

Comments have been disabled for this post