Qualcomm Reveals New Flagship Snapdragon 808 and 810 64-Bit SoCs Coming In 2015

Subject: Mobile | April 8, 2014 - 07:47 PM |
Tagged: SoC, snapdragon, qualcomm, LTE, ARMv8, adreno, 64-bit

Qualcomm has announced two new flagship 64-bit SoCs with the Snapdragon 808 and Snapdragon 810. The new chips will begin sampling later this year and should start showing up in high end smartphones towards the second half of 2015. The new 800-series parts join the previously announced mid-range Snapdragon 610 and 615 which are also 64-bit ARMv8 parts.

The Snapdragon 810 is Qualcomm's new flagship processor. The chip features four ARM Cortex A57 cores and four Cortex A53 cores in a big.LITTLE configuration, an Adreno 430 GPU, and support for Category 6 LTE (up to 300 Mbps downloads) and LPDDR4 memory. This flagship part uses the 64-bit ARMv8 ISA. The new Adreno 430 GPU integrated in the SoC is reportedly 30% faster than the Adreno 420 GPU in the Snapdragon 805 processor.

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In addition to the flagship part, Qualcomm is also releasing the Snapdragon 808 which pairs two Cortex A57 CPU cores and four Cortex A53 CPU cores in a big.LITTLE configuration with an Adreno 418 (approximately 20% faster than the popular Adreno 320) GPU. This chip supports LPDDR3 memory and Qualcomm's new Category 6 LTE modem.

Both the 808 and 810 have Adreno GPUs which support OpenGL ES 3.1. The new chips support a slew of wireless I/O including Categrory 6 LTE, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, and NFC.

Qualcomm is reportedly planning to produce these SoCs on a 20nm process. For reference, the mid-range 64-bit Snapdragon 610 and 615 use a 28nm LP manufacturing process. The new 20nm process (presumably from TSMC) should enable improved battery life and clockspeed headroom on the flagship parts. Exactly how big the mentioned gains will be will depend on the specific manufacturing process, with smaller gains from a bulk/planar process shrink or greater improvements coming from more advanced methods such as FD-SOI if the new chip on a 20nm process is the same transistor count as one on a 28nm process (which is being used in existing chips).

The 808 and 810 parts are the new high-end 64-bit chips which will effectively supplant the 32-bit Snapdragon 805 which is a marginal update over the Snapdragon 800. The naming conventions and product lineups are getting a bit crazy here, but suffice it to say that the 808 and 810 are the effective successors to the 800 while the 805 is a stop-gap upgrade while Qualcomm moves to 64-bit ARMv8 and secures manufacturing for the new chips which should be slightly faster CPU-wise, notably faster GPU-wise and more capable with the faster cellular modem support and 64-bit ISA support.

For those wondering, the press release also states that the company is still working on development of its custom 64-bit Krait CPU architecture. However, it does not appear that 64-bit Krait will be ready by the first half of 2015, which is why Qualcomm has opted to use ARM's Cortex A57 and A53 cores in its upcoming flagship 808 and 810 SoCs.

Source: Qualcomm

MWC 2014: Intel Announces XMM 7260 LTE-Advanced Wireless Modem

Subject: Mobile | February 24, 2014 - 04:00 AM |
Tagged: xmm, MWC 14, MWC, lte-advanced, LTE, Intel, 7260

Intel also announced Merrifield and Moorefield SoCs at Mobile World Congress today.

In 2011, Intel acquired SysDSoft to improve and accelerate the companies transition into the mobile wireless controllers, LTE in particular.  As a result, Intel released the XMM 7160 modem in 2013 which included the X-GOLD 716 baseband controller that could support LTE and HSPA functions.  This modem was adopted by a handful of OEMs in the market with Cat 4 bandwidth up to 150 Mbps (downstream) and 50 Mbps (upstream), LTE voice implementation and globally capability with 15 bands.

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This modem was available as a multi-chip solution for mobile device vendors to implement but was shipped in a M.2 module. The latter form gave a quick option for notebook and tablet vendors to include in ready-built systems.

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At Mobile World Congress today though, Intel is announcing its next generation modem, the XMM 7260 LTE-Advanced.  As the name implies, this update includes support for LTE-Advanced that adds in features like carrier aggregation and a pair of downlink channels for up to 300 Mbps data rates.  Carrier aggregation can be used for additional bandwidth performance or to disperse spectrum in a more efficient way to improve reliability.  Intel claims that this controller and modem meets the maximum specification levels of LTE today.

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The XMM 7260 LTE-Advanced includes the X-GOLD 726 that is truly a global market ready part with frequency compatibility on LTE FDD/TDD, WCDMA/HSPA+, TD-SCDMA/TD-HSPA/EDGE.  This iteration uses fewer components, thus is smaller and easier to integrate than the 7160, and will be "on shelf" as early as next quarter.  There is no CDMA support included, though. For users on Verizon and Sprint, we'll have to see if handset makers for those carriers have adjusted their timelines for LTE-only devices.  AT&T and T-Mobile, in the US, will have no issues with 4G and 3G support.

This modem is meant to compete directly with the stranglehold that Qualcomm has on the LTE market (and one source tells me that carriers "are dying for an alternative" to help drive down costs).  Though it might seem odd in some ways, I fully expect this XMM 7260 modem to be paired with non-Intel SoC devices, including smartphones and tablets.  In fact, it is quite possible that the XMM 7260 LTE-Advanced modem might have more successful adoption than the upcoming Merrifield SoCs, also announced today. Device manufacturers might be satisfied with their choice in SoCs, not demanding an alternative in x86, but also might appreciate a new modem.

As a side note, the XMM 7260 is being built on TSMC's 28nm process technology rather than on Intel's own fabs (this isn't the first time it has happened).  I don't expect this to be a concern for performance but it is interesting to see a chip that Intel is placing so much emphasis on being constructed outside its own walls.

The XMM 7269 LTE-Advanced modem is currently in certification and is expected to be available for integration in Q2, 2014.

NVIDIA Updates Tegra Note 7 with LTE model, KitKat 4.4.2

Subject: Mobile | February 21, 2014 - 09:00 AM |
Tagged: tegra note 7, tegra 4, nvidia, LTE, i500

In November of last year NVIDIA and some of its partners around the world released the Tegra Note 7, a 7-in tablet that was powered by NVIDIA's Tegra 4 SoC.  I posted a review of the unit on its launch and found that the Note 7 offered some impressive features including a high quality screen, stylus input and high performance graphics for a cost of just $199.  Users that were looking for a budget priced Android tablet that didn't skimp on features found a perfect home with the Tegra Note 7.

In preparation for Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week, NVIDIA is announcing a new model of the Tegra Note 7 that adds an LTE modem.  The appropriately named Tegra Note 7 LTE still includes the full performance Tegra 4 SoC but adds to it the NVIDIA i500 software LTE modem that enables support for the LTE and HSPA+ bands in the US.  That means you can expect support on AT&T and T-Mobile networks.  This is NOT the Tegra 4i SoC that integrates the i500 controller directly on die; this integration is two distinct chips.

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The rest of the specifications of the Tegra Note 7 LTE remain the same as the previous model.  A 7-in 1280x800 resolution screen, front facing stereo speakers, front and rear cameras, chisel and brush tipped stylus and more.  The price of this new model will be $299 and it should be available "in the 2nd quarter."  That is a $100 markup over the current Tegra Note 7 that is WiFi only.  The Google Nexus 7 only has an $80 premium for the LTE-enabled option.

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Also announced with the Tegra Note 7 LTE is the availability of the 4.4.2 KitKat Android update for all Tegra Note 7 devices.  Along with the Android OS tweaks and updates you'll get support for the NVIDIA Gamepad Mapper to enable touch-based games to work on an attached controller.

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Another solid OS update for existing Tegra Note 7 devices and LTE data support in a new model perk up the NVIDIA tablet line quite a bit.  With MWC kicking into high gear in the next few days I am sure we will see numerous new competitors in this 7-in tablet market though so we'll have to hold judgement on the Note 7's continued placement in the market.

IDF 2013: Intel Plans $100 Tablets and 22nm SoC Smartphones

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 10, 2013 - 01:38 PM |
Tagged: tablet, smartphone, LTE, Intel, idf 2013, idf, Bay Trail, 22nm

This year at the Intel Developer Forum, Intel is announcing a slew of new products. Among the fray is a sneak peek at some of the mobile devices that will be utilizing the company's Bay Trail Atom SoCs. 

The first device Intel showed off was a small Lenovo branded tablet that is likely the Intel-powered alternative to the current ARM-powered S5000 that was announced at IFA 2013 in Berlin. The Intel powered tablet is using a Bay Trail Atom SoC.

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The mysteriously specc'd Lenovo tablet is not the only kit to use Bay Trail, however. Intel claims that there will be a number of new tablets on the way, including models that will be available for under $100 in time for this holiday season. Of course, beyond that specs were not announced.

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Intel also showed off a new prototype smartphone that is powered by a new 22nm SoC. Ryan speculates that the chip is an Intel Merrifield-based SoC which is a mobile architecure derived from Silvermont. The company claims that the move to a 22nm manufacturing process for these mobile chips results in a 50% battery life improvement. Impressive, if those numbers hold true!

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The smartphone further features an LTE radio, and Intel shared a speed test of the LTE modem during the conference. Today, the smartphone uses LTE for data and 3G for voice calls, but by the end of the year products will be able to use the LTE radio for both data and voice connections.

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Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more IDF good-ness as it develops!

FCC Approves Softbank Acquisition of Sprint Nextel, and Sprint's Acquisition of Clearwire

Subject: General Tech | July 6, 2013 - 07:40 PM |
Tagged: Sprint, spectrum, softbank, LTE, FCC, clearwire, 4g lte

The FCC recently approved the acquisitions of Clearwire and Sprint Nextel by Japanese company Softbank. The deals have already been approved by the shareholders and the US DoJ. Now, with the FCC red tape out of the way, the acquisitions can move forward and are expected to be completed later this month.

Specifically, Sprint Nextel will be acquiring Clearwire, and it will in turn be bought out by Softbank.Softbank is Japans third largest mobile carrier with approximately 22% of the market last year. Sprint shareholders approved the acquisition on June 25th in a deal now valued at around $21.6 billion. The FCC commented that the deal would have "no adverse competitive effects" due to the merger because Softbank and Sprint are not domestic competitors.

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In fact, the FCC believes that the SoftBank acquisition may help competition among the wireless carriers in the US as SoftBank will be able to add resources and expertise to Sprint, including adding additional captial to aid in Sprint's Network Vision plans to roll out nationwide LTE and upgrade all of its existing towers to multinode base stations that can operate on multiple simultaneous bands, including Sprint's 800 MHz and 1.9GHz spectrum. The Clearwire 2.5GHz spectrum may also play a part in the Network Vision upgrade and add even more bandwidth to Sprint's LTE arsenal.

Sprint/SoftBank plans to bring LTE to 200 million people in the US by the end of 2013, with more upgrades coming in the future. The extra resources from SoftBank will help Sprint to take on Verizon and AT&T in the US, which is both good news for consumers and for Sprint.

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In addition to SoftBank acquiring Sprint Nextel, Sprint will be acquiring Clearwire for $2.2 billion. This will give Sprint full control over the 2.5GHz spectrum, and is happening in spite of Dish's complaints and counter bids. Sprint will control a wide range of spectrum that will rival both AT&T and Verizion, in fact.

In all, the approximately $23.8 billion deal will see a reinvigorated Sprint, and increased pressue on Verizion, AT&T, and T-Mobile to offer competitive plans and pricing (though the effects will not be immediate). It is not clear from the various announcements if Sprint will remain branded as such, or what will happen to the MVNOs that operate on its network. It is an exciting time for Sprint though, and I hope that it works out to better wireless options for US consumers.

What do you think about the merger of Clearwire, Sprint Nextel, and SoftBank?

Source: FCC

LG Has Sold 10 Million LTE Smartphones Worldwide, Expects to Double Market Penetration in 2013

Subject: General Tech | March 3, 2013 - 05:37 AM |
Tagged: smartphones, LTE, LG, Android

LG recently announced that it has sold 10 million smartphones equipped with LTE (Long Term Evolution) radios. That number is merely a small slice of the total 90.9 million LTE phones shipped in 2012 by all manufacturers, but it is an impressive number for the South Korean company.

LG attributes its record sales to is flagship Optimus G and other LTE smartphones being launched in the United States, Japan, Germany, and South Korea. LG smartphones are still somewhat rare in the US, with Samsung and HTC dominating the Android options here. Still, it is nice to see additional competition, and hopefully LG will make itself more widely known in North America.

LG Optimus G.jpg

Through 2013, LG expects to double its market penetration with new LTE smartphones in additional emerging markets. Surprisingly, research firm Strategy Analytics estimates that global LTE smartphone shipments will grow Year over Year 202.5% to 275 million units. That is quite the jump from 2012’s 90.9 million LTE smartphones! According to LG, part of the company’s plan to contribute to that estimated shipment number is to introduce two new smartphones in the Optimus F series, and to roll-out the existing Optimus G to 50 additional countries.

The two new Optimus F smartphones feature LTE radios, IPS displays, large displays, and beefy batteries. The Optimus F7 has a 4.7” (312 PPI) IPS display, 1.5GHz dual core SoC, 2540 mAh battery, and 2GB of RAM. The Optimus F5, on the other hand, has a 4.3” (256 PPI) IPS display, 1.2GHz dual core SoC, 2150 mAh battery, and 1GB of RAM.

It remains to be seen whether or not LG can reach its goal, but I am hopeful that the company will at least be able to give the other Android smartphone makers a run for their money with new phone designs.

You can find the full press release over at Engadget.

Source: Engadget

Upping the ante on tenable celluar signals

Subject: General Tech | November 8, 2012 - 01:20 PM |
Tagged: antenna, 4g, LTE, 3g, GSM

The duties of a mobile phone have changed drastically over the past decade, starting as a simple voice communications tool and evolving into today's video phones, movie players and occasionally productivity tools.  There is one thing inside every cell phone which has not changed at the same pace but is vital to the functionality of the phone, the antenna.  As the expectations of fast transfer speeds rise with the advent of new communication standards like LTE, phone manufacturers are faced with two growing problems.  The first is the diminishing tolerances allowed on the antennas, while less than perfect tuning was acceptable for GSM you cannot let the tuning slip with higher bandwidth standards.  The second is the growing electronic background noise which is omnipresent and growing each year, causing degradation of your cellular signal. The solution might be RF-MEMS ( Radio Frequency Micro-ElectroMechanical Systems) antennas with software controllable tuning which could ease the difficulties of providing tighter tolerances and boosting signals.  The Inquirer covers two companies working on this technology here.

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"Smartphones nowadays come with big screens, megapixel-packed cameras and, thanks to apps, many, many more features than anyone could have dreamed of in the early days of mobile telephony. It has even reached the stage where making telephone calls is just one small part of a modern phone. And yet the need to support all the radio technologies punters expect to be able to use, for voice and for data, ensures that wireless communications is still the hardest part of a phone’s design to get right."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

NVIDIA Tegra 3 gets boost with LTE Support, 30 Devices this year

Subject: Mobile | May 24, 2012 - 08:05 PM |
Tagged: wayne, tegra 3, tegra, nvidia, LTE, icera, grey

In the middle of 2011, NVIDIA acquired a small company by the name of Icera, a maker of baseband and RF technologies that would eventually allow the company to integrate the two into a single chip.  As LTE-capable devices from Verizon, AT&T and even Sprint have been announced and ship, no NVIDIA Tegra-powered phone or tablet has been able to support the feature with the lone exception of the ZTE Mimosa X in February of this year.  

Today NVIDIA officially announced support and validation from AT&T on their new and growing LTE network for the Icera 410 LTE multimode chipset.  This will finally allow Tegra + LTE devices to be sold and available in the US and other markets when product manufacturers integrate the two processors in future designs.

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As to when we will see those designs, we aren't quite sure but nothing was announced during the NVIDIA investors day today.  All we know now is that they will be coming "through this year and next."

“Validation with AT&T is an achievement that paves the way for NVIDIA Icera-powered LTE devices on the AT&T network through this year and next,” said Stan Boland, senior vice president of Mobile Communications at NVIDIA.
 
The NVIDIA Icera 410 LTE modem delivers lightning-fast web browsing, video streaming and multiplayer gaming to tablets and clamshell devices. It is the first Icera modem to implement 4G LTE in NVIDIA’s software defined radio baseband processor. Together with its multimode radio transceiver, the chipset offers 4G LTE at category 2 data rates (up to 50 Mbps) as well as 4G HSPA+, 3G and 2G compatibility.

What we DID learn at the NVIDIA investors meeting is that Mike Rayfield, GM of Tegra business unit, things we'll see as many as 30 Tegra 3 based devices for sale this year.  

NVIDIA has 30 devices planned for the year. So far, we've seen just two. Of those 30 devices, some 15 will be planned for sub-$200 pricing. That's certainly the sweet spot for impulse purchases.

NVIDIA's also looking to make inroads into the Chinese market, with 18 of those 30 tablets targeted for the Asian nation. By comparison, NVIDIA only released five devices in China in 2011, Rayfield said.

The big name to know for the rest of the year is Kai. That's the low-cost, high-performance system that NVIDIA is crowing about these days, and it's what will help bring prices down while keeping prices at a more affordable level. Will there be higher-performing tablets? Sure. But will they be $200?

Producing a number of devices, like 30, is impressive but without context the fact means very little.  How many of these devices are going to tablets and how many are phones?  How many will be running the Microsoft Win RT operating system for ARM due out in fall?  

Speaking of Icera though, NVIDIA also showed the roadmap for LTE integration including the upcoming Icera i500 LTE controller for high-end phones and tablets with newly planned integration directly on the Tegra core in a new chip called "Grey".  This new processor will run parallel with the planned 2013 release of "Wayne" though it will be targeted at smartphones and lower end tablets; Wayne is planned to find its way into higher end tablets and the onslaught of clamshells we'll see with Windows RT.

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There is a lot more to learn and we expect see more news come our way as we approach Computex in Taipei!