Qualcomm’s latest chips and the quad-core era


Qualcomm (S qcom) unveiled two new chip families designed to put more compute into mobile computing at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last night with an over-the-top performance. While the speech itself made headlines, let’s take a quick look at the tech — namely the new chips. Both are fast and power efficient, but with the newest family of chips coming so quickly behind the launch of the latest 600 series Qualcomm is speeding up the hardware cycle as fast as it can to help keep up with the ever-advancing software tweaks that are demanding ever more compute power.

The newest 800 family of chips is a quad-core design that will feature 2.3 GHz of performance on each core. While the ARM-based architecture can’t directly be compared to Intel’s x86 architecture, with that kind of performance this is a chip that’s more powerful than your desktop from a few years back. The 800 chips will also feature better graphics processing, an integrated modem that will include support for the latest Wi-Fi standard 802.11ac that allows for gigabit data transfer speeds and some fancy image processing hardware that will support up to four cameras and 3D.

Qualcomm hopes to have these chips in devices that could include mobile devices, but will also include televisions, in mid-2013. A bit earlier, during the second quarter of 2013, manufacturers can use Qualcomm’s other new design — its 600 family of chips — in devices. The 600 family use a less powerful version of the Krait core used in the 800 family. The 600 series quad-core chips will deliver 1.9 Ghz per core and will also have an integrated graphics processing unit.

Both chips are upgrades on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 Pro processor that’s inside the Google Nexus 4 and the HTC Droid DNA. The 600 series will offer 40 percent more performance than that chip at a lower price point, while the 800 series will offer 75 percent more performance. No word from Qualcomm on how fast these monster chips will deplete battery life.

But as we see more quad-core chips coming out, let’s hope we see equally compelling applications designed for them. There are pretty neat things outside of Angry Birds or Facebook, that you can do with computers this powerful.

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