Look Out Intel: Here Comes Qualcomm’s Next Super Chip

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This year may be remembered by history as the debut of the highly-capable “superphone” but if Qualcomm has any say, 2011 could bring another quantum leap in smartphone computing, reports AnandTech. The mobile chip designer introduced plans for next generation silicon at an analyst event yesterday, claiming next year’s chips will offer five times greater performance with 75 percent less power draw  compared to its current Snapdragon line. Attributes like this will only further that gap between ARM-based chips and those of Intel, which has yet to find a foothold in the fast-growing smartphone market.

Manufacturing samples of Qualcomm’s MSM8960 are expected in 2011 and are likely to be the company’s first system on a chip (SOC) created with a 28-nanometer process. Aside from reducing power use, Qualcomm’s presentation shows a dual-core processor, a four-fold boost in graphics thanks to a new Adreno 300 GPU, and perhaps most important: integrated support for both 3G and LTE networks. The multi-network support is key because LTE networks are just now beginning to roll out, and some carriers intend to use existing 3G infrastructure as a fallback or supplement for LTE. Data may be on the new network, for example, while voice continues on 3G.

While the new chip sounds breathtaking on paper, consumers shouldn’t hold their breath waiting to buy a smartphone with the MSM8960. The chip samples in 2011 are strictly for device manufacturers to see and use for planning purposes. Qualcomm hasn’t indicated when large-scale production for the new chips will begin, so I’m not expecting to see any devices using the new chips for at least a year. We should hear more about the next-generation processor at the Consumer Electronics Show this coming January, but the only devices we may see would be prototypes to show off the chip capabilities.

Still, Qualcomm’s next Snapdragon appears ready to buck a long-time trend in the mobile world; typically there’s a trade-off between power requirements and performance, but the MSM8960 looks poised to undercut that theory. More importantly, if the chip can deliver on its high-performance promises, it becomes another thorn in the side of Intel and its Atom efforts.

Image credit: Flickr user VOD Cars

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