Mobile chip wars rage on as Samsung debuts its quad-core

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Samsung introduced its next generation mobile chip, the Exynos 4 Quad, on Thursday, with claims of faster speeds and lower power consumption. The company is planning debut the Galaxy S III smartphone next week, which Samsung says will be the first handset to use the new chip. The new Exynos applications processor is set to compete against the like of silicon from Qualcomm, Nvidia and Texas Instruments, all of which are used in modern smartphones and tablets.

Samsung is touting twice the performance of its Exynos 4 Dual, which has two processing cores and is based on the ARM Cortex-A9 architecture, along with a 20 percent reduction in power use. This won’t equate to a straight 20 percent boost in run time on a device with the chip however, as a the bulk of power consumption comes from smartphone and tablet displays. However, the improvement will be welcome because it means mobile device can perform tasks faster, allowing people to get more done in the same amount of time.

The new chip takes advantage of two technologies to bring the performance boost paired with the power savings. The Exynos 4 Quad uses a 32 nanometer production process, as compared to 45 nm for Samsung’s prior chips, and is the first quad-core mobile chip to use a High-k Metal Gate (HKMG) process. This allows for less power leakage and is a process used by Intel for the last several years on traditional computer chips. Samsung says it can also dynamically scale the clock speed and put some cores in idle mode when only one or two processing cores are needed.

Last year was definitely the realm of the dual-core device with such chips finding their way into numerous high-end smartphones and tablets. This year, Nvidia kicked off the quad-core age with its Tegra 3 chip powering the Asus Transformer Prime Android tablet and, more recently, the HTC One X smartphone.

Without a doubt, the most capable devices to ship this year will be powered by quad-core chips and although Samsung will use its Exynos 4 Quad in its own devices, the company is already providing samples to other handset makers. If this technology is all happening too fast for you, you might want to buckle up: Next year should bring even faster, more capable chips due to the next-generation of ARM architecture called A15.

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