Follow-up: Next-gen Snapdragon S4 class SoCs — exploiting TSMC’s 28nm process first — coming in December [Aug 9 — Nov 16, 2011]
Update: Qualcomm Snapdragon S1-S2-S3 SoCs lineup in production as of 16-Nov-2011
End of Update
In the last 24 hours there has been an incredible barrage of posts about “rebranding Snapdragon”. These posts are providing a kind of summary of changes referring to Qualcomm as the source of the information but not linking to that. When one finally finds the Qualcomm source it comes out that there is no rebranding in the conventional sense just a new classification for existing SoCs. So the individual SoC identifiers are the same, there is just a possibility to refer to them by a higher level of indentification which is related to the class of systems they are targeted to.
Because this is much more important new information than the non-existant rebranding I am first copying here the Qualcomm source and then some additional important information regarding their Adreno graphics capabilities and Qualcomm’s latest strategic moves to enter mobile gaming in a very big way. A report of current assesment of that is also available: Qualcomm hopes to make game consoles obsolete [Aug 4, 2011] Anandtech has published the slides of the Qualcomm event: Qualcomm’s March into the Gaming Market [Aug 3, 2011] and draws attention to this particular slide:
Please note the “Wireless Display” option which comes via the WCN3660 companion chip to Snapdragon S4 class of SoCs from the recently acquired Atheros (now Qualcomm Atheros). That chip will support the emerging Wi-Fi Display standard (said not to be confused with Intel’s WiDi) for streaming video directly from a smartphone or tablet to a Wi-Fi enabled display or television. (See also Wireless Gigabit Alliance – WiGig where Atheros is a member which is competing with Wireless HD where one of the members is Intel)
A Simple Way to Identify Which Snapdragon System is Right for You [Tim McDonough Vice President, Marketing, Qualcomm QCT on Qualcomm’s blog: OnQ, Aug 3, 2011]
Today Qualcomm is introducing a new way for our customers, our industry colleagues and consumers to identify the Snapdragon chipset that fits their needs. Those of you who know us well know that our current Snapdragon family of processors has grown to encompass over 15 different chips with feature sets that target mass market smartphones all the way through high end smartphones and tablets. And, although our Snapdragon chips are called processors, they are really system on chip solutions. Inside each Snapdragon chip are multiple hardware subsystems including CPUs, GPUs, modems, multimedia processors, GPS, DSPs, sensors, as well as advanced management software.
And all of these components are integrated into a single small chip that is designed with mobile in mind. The result is that Snapdragon processors deliver outstanding performance and longer battery life. But with such a deep roadmap of chips, our customers and industry colleagues have told us that it has become increasingly difficult to quickly and easily identify which chips are best suited for different devices.
We have arrived at a simple solution. Now our Snapdragon processors are classified into three system classes, System 1 (S1), System 2 (S2) and System 3 (S3): Simple names which denote performance and feature set. Moving forward, we will continue to add new classes as our roadmap grows. Without further ado, I present you with the Snapdragon S1, Snapdragon S2 and Snapdragon S3.
Snapdragon S1: Mass Market Smartphones [note: Up to 3G HSPA]
Snapdragon S1 processors offer great performance and longer battery life for today’s mass market smartphones. Boasting CPU speeds of up to 1Ghz, Adreno 200 graphics and a 3G modem, Snapdragon S1 processors are powering some of today’s coolest devices.
“The HTC Wildfire S could be the darling of the affordable Android handsets……..The most important factor for us is that we’ve found the HTC Wildfire S capable to performing those core tasks without too much of a compromise.”
— Pocket-Lint’s review of the HTC Wildfire S powered by the Snapdragon S1
The Snapdragon S2: High Performance Smart Phones & Tablets [note: 3G HSPA+]
The Snapdragon S2 processor is an excellent choice for high performance smartphones and tablets. The S2 class of processors have some of the same design foundations as the S1 class but with some key performance improvements including a single core Scorpion CPU that clocks to speeds of up to 1.4Ghz, the fastest single core mobile CPU in the market, and the Adreno 205 GPU, which is designed to provide a 2x performance boost over the Adreno 200 GPUs. Web browsing and multimedia performance gets a serious performance boost too. With just one CPU core, the Snapdragon S2 can offer smoother graphics than other solutions that use dual-core CPUs.
“You can see clearly in the video that Qualcomm’s 2nd generation, single-core processor chewed up YouTube’s 720p Flash content without a hitch while the others failed to keep up in a smooth fashion.”
— Phandroid– (6/2011)
Snapdragon S3: Multi-tasking & Advanced Gaming [note: 3G HSPA+, 1440×900/1080p HD/Dolby 5.1, Stereoscopic 3D capture & playback]
Here’s where things really get kicked up a notch. Simply put, the Snapdragon S3 is designed to offer 2x the graphics performance of the S2 and 4x the graphics performance of the S1. The S3 class of processors also feature a dual core Scorpion CPU at speeds of up to 1.5Ghz per core. With a more powerful [Adreno 220] GPU and a fast dual core CPU, the things our customers are starting to do with the S3 are pretty incredible. Take the HTC EVO 3D, this smartphone features a front-facing camera for video calls, two cameras on the back to create 3D photos and a display that uses a parallax barrier so you can view 3D photos without 3D glasses!
This performance boost also allows our customers to create devices with bigger and sharper displays. The Snapdragon S1 and S2 are typically in devices with 3-4-inch displays that offer a resolution of 800×480. The Snapdragon S3 in the HTC EVO 3D drives a 4.3-inch display with a resolution of 960×540, while the HP TouchPad tablet uses a monstrous 10.1-inch with a resolution of 1024×768.
The Snapdragon S3 Mobile Processor and Your HDTV [Aug 2, 2011] [note the “extend that experience to a 40-inch display” both in the video and the attached caption]
To maintain great battery life while also improving performance, Qualcomm designed the S3’s Scorpion CPU cores to be asynchronous, so each core can operate at different frequencies and voltages for superior performance at lower power. The S3 class of processors also support a host of video codecs and multimedia acceleration. You can learn more about the devices that use Snapdragon processors in our Snapdragon Showcase
“It (The Snapdragon S3) has arguably the best CPU and GPU in the dual-cores…The CPU being asynchronous can be a real battery saver… including NEON and has a 128-bit pipeline rather than 64 bit found in all other CPU thus a better speed…About multimedia, Its one of the best when it comes to multimedia… Qualcomm is also known for the stability of chipsets due to the fact that everything is on the chipset itself rather than making manufacturers add it.”
— Droid Gamers—Beastly Dual-Core Android Devices: A Rundown on Each Chipset (5/2011)
Coming Soon: Snapdragon S4—Next Generation Devices
The Snapdragon S4 class will include the newest generation of Snapdragon processors and will feature a new CPU microarchitecture [Krait instead of the previous Scorpion] and integrated 3G/LTE multimode. The S4 will stay true to its roots by delivering exceptional battery power—a 65% decrease in power consumption, yet at the same time boost performance by 150%. This combo is going to create mobile products that offer graphics [Adreno 225 and up] that are comparable to current gaming consoles.
You’re also going to see Snapdragon S4 processors in new form factors and running a full blown desktop operating system. We’re currently working with Microsoft so the S4 can run the next version of Windows—Windows 8.
Stay tuned for big things. Or should we say small things?
Snapdragon™ Adreno 220 GPU Powers “Desert Winds” Game at MWC [Brent Sammons, Graphics Product Manager, Qualcomm QCT on Qualcomm’s blog: OnQ, March 1, 2011]
Attendees of Mobile World Congress 2011 got to see the newest generation of the Adreno GPU, Adreno 220, in action as part of the new Desert Winds game demo at Qualcomm’s booth. The graphics performance, new 3D effects, and level of graphical realism now possible with the dual-core Snapdragon MSM8660 chipset and its Adreno 220 GPU grabbed the attention of virtually all passing by the booth.
Snapdragon’s Adreno GPU – Desert Winds Game Demo [note the “console quality” differentiation in the attached text]
Desert Winds was shown in stereoscopic and non-stereoscopic 3D via HDMI out to a 55-inch HD LCD display. As with Qualcomm’s other dual-core Snapdragon MSM8660 demos at the show, the new Desert Winds game was running on the Snapdragon Mobile Development Platform (MDP), which is a device available to developers who want early access to Snapdragon chipsets and Adreno GPUs. (Get more info on the Snapdragon MDP and how to purchase at www.bsquare.com.)
The Desert Winds game ran in interactive and non-interactive modes, giving users the ability to play the game and help the game’s heroine, Amira, slay the giant scorpion character, Alacran, and his army of scorpions.
Developed by Southend Interactive, the game showcases the console-quality 3D graphics and high-end effects made possible by the Adreno 220 GPU, such as:
- Advanced particle physics and vertex skinning
- Full-screen post-processing shader effects
- Dynamic lighting with full-screen alpha blending
- Real-time cloth simulation
- Advanced shader effects like dynamic shadows, god rays, bump mapping and reflections
- 3D animated textures
Qualcomm will continue to use the Desert Winds game to showcase the ever-evolving, advanced capabilities of the Adreno GPU, with more 3D effects, smoother stereoscopic HD gaming, market-leading performance, and industry leading power-efficient 3D graphics. Based on our research (*), the Adreno 220 GPU in Qualcomm’s dual-core Snapdragon MSM8660 offers twice the performance of the GPU in other leading dual-core ARM9-based chips.
With more Android devices based on Snapdragon and Adreno and with over 100 games optimized for Snapdragon and Adreno, it seems clear that the mobile industry is already well aware of the many advantages that Snapdragon and its Adreno GPU.
In my opinion, it was apparent at this year’s Mobile World Congress that Qualcomm is well-positioned to continue its strong momentum in providing OEMs and 3D game developers with a powerful and efficient graphics platform that brings more of the industry’s latest and best 3D games to more smartphones, tablets and laptops everywhere.
(*) Source Qualcomm – Average of Industry benchmarks composed of Neocore, GLBenchmark, 3DMM and Nenamark
Anandtech’s reports are not contradicting that:
– Hands on and Benchmarks of two MSM8x60 Phones – HTC Sensation 4G and HTC EVO 3D [June 3, 2011]
– Dual Core Snapdragon GPU Performance Explored – 1.5 GHz MSM8660 and Adreno 220 Benchmarks [March 30, 2011]
… GLBenchmark 2.0 is the best example of an even remotely current 3D game running on this class of hardware–even then this is a bit of a stretch. GLBenchmark 2.0 is still our current go-to test as it is our best best for guaging real world performance, even across different mobile OSes. … Comparatively, the 1.5 GHz MSM8660 with Adreno 220 is 2.2x faster than the 1 GHz MSM8655 with Adreno 205.
Quadrant 3D and 2D
Last and definitely least (at least in my mind) on the list is Quadrant, which has unfortunately become something of a de-facto one stop shop for benchmarking Android devices, famously spitting out one easy to digest score.
… Adreno 220 shows anywhere from 2-5x performance gains over Adreno 205.
When we first started looking at Qualcomm’s Snapdragon SoCs we were impressed by their CPU performance but largely put off by the performance of the Adreno 200 GPU. The 45nm Snapdragon with the Adreno 205 GPU changed things as it roughly doubled GPU performance. The Adreno 220 brings about another doubling in GPU performance. …
How Snapdragon is Changing the Mobile Gaming Industry [Brent Sammons, Graphics Product Manager, Qualcomm QCT, Feb 10, 2011]
Qualcomm Shows Strong Support of the Mobile 3D Gaming Ecosystem at GDC [Brent Sammons, Graphics Product Manager, Qualcomm QCT on Qualcomm’s blog: OnQ, March 18, 2011]
Qualcomm has been clearly demonstrating its support of the entire mobile 3D gaming ecosystem at recent conferences like this month’s Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco. This support showed up as a press release with Gameloft; a new video with Gameloft and NAMCO BANDAI Games America; joint marketing activities with Sony Ericsson around their new PlayStation Certified Xperia Playdevice; a GDC speaker session featuring presentations by leading mobile developers Southend Interactive and Polarbit; a new Snapdragon mobile 3D gaming ecosystem video and a very well-attended and well-received party at Ruby Skye!
In the press release Qualcomm announced its agreement with Gameloft to deliver an enhanced, Snapdragon-optimized experience for Gameloft’s premier HD mobile 3D game titles like “SpiderMan Total Mayhem HD,” “Real Football 2011 HD,” “GT Racing: Motor Academy HD” and “Modern Combat 2: Black Pegasus.” These will be optimized for current and future Snapdragon processors, such as the MSM8x55 with its Adreno 205 GPU (currently shipping), and the dual-core MSM8x60 with its Adreno 220 GPU.
In a video shot during GDC, Baudouin Corman (Vice President Publishing of Americas for Gameloft) and Dominic Lobbia (Senior R&D Director of NAMCO BANDAI Games America) speak to their game optimization efforts and the value that Snapdragon and Adreno bring to the table. They cite the strong adoption of Snapdragon by manufacturers of high-end Android and Windows Mobile 7 devices, the high quality and great performance of mobile 3D graphics powered by Snapdragon and Adreno, as well as the valuable graphical optimization and development tools Qualcomm offers like the Adreno Profiler. (For more information on the Adreno tools, go to http://developer.qualcomm.com/dev/gpu/tools.)
Game Developers Explain the Value of the Adreno GPU [March 18, 2011]
Conference attendees also had the opportunity to get the whole story about Qualcomm’s mobile 3D gaming ecosystem support via a new video that was playing just outside the South Hall Expo Floor. The video features Qualcomm’s Vice President of Product Management, Raj Talluri, who explains that there is a huge ecosystem of Snapdragon game developers and games optimized to Snapdragon, that the majority of Android phones use the Snapdragon processor, and that all Windows Phone 7 products use the Snapdragon processor. Therefore, he explains, developers are able to reach a large audience of smartphone and tablet users.
Qualcomm’s Mobile 3D Gaming Ecosystem [March 20, 2011]
“Hey, You Got Your Snapdragon Chipset in My Xperia™ PLAY” [Brent Sammons, Graphics Product Manager, Qualcomm QCT on Qualcomm’s blog: OnQ, May 27, 2011]
Unlike the chocolate and peanut butter in Reese’s chocolate peanut butter cups, it was no accident that Snapdragon and the Xperia PLAY found themselves together. This week Sony Ericsson launched the Xperia PLAY at Verizon, with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon MSM8255 mobile processor with Adreno 205 Graphics Processing Unit(GPU) inside.
It is the world’s first PlayStation-certified phone (and perhaps the world’s most gaming-centric smartphone). And Sony Ericsson chose Snapdragon and Adreno to power it. If you’re wondering why, check out this recently posted Qualcomm video, featuring Aaron Duke and Kim Ahlstrom from Sony Ericsson, talking about the Xperia PLAY with Snadragon’s Adreno GPU.
Snapdragon’s Adreno  GPU powers the Xperia PLAY [May 26, 2011]
The Snapdragon MSM8255 chipset and Adreno 205 GPU together provide a fun and immersive gaming experience via the very device you will want to carry with you everywhere all the time – the new Xperia PLAY smartphone.
Not only does Snapdragon contain powerful graphics processing — enough to rival some in-home console systems — but it also has a lot of other valuable integrated features like video capture and playback, music playbackand a 1.4 GHz CPU.
The Xperia PLAY has a 4-inch 854×480 display, a 5 megapixel rear-facing camera, a VGA front-facing camera, 512 MB of RAM, and is based on Android 2.3 Gingerbread. Perhaps more importantly, the device comes with seven preloaded games. And you can download over 50 more games via Verizon’s VCAST apps store.
I would say that another big reason that Sony Ericsson chose to work with Qualcomm is that Qualcomm is really into mobile gaming!Keep your eyes peeled in the coming days for more details on just how big into gaming Qualcomm has become.
In the case of the Xperia PLAY, Qualcomm worked closely with Sony Ericsson not only to establish connections with some of the best mobile game developers and game titles around, but alsoto help game developers make sure that the games offered on the PLAY are the best they can be, using the Adreno graphics optimization tools.
We’re very pleased that Sony Ericsson chose Snapdragon for the Xperia PLAY device. We’re confident you will be, too. The Xperia Play may not be as tasty as a Reese’s peanut butter cup, but I’d say it’s a lot more fun and lasts a lot longer! For more information on commercially available Snapdragon-based devices and on the Adreno graphics optimization tools, check out our developer site at developer.qualcomm.com.
(listed in what I believe is the best to the worse)
+ ARM Sparrow: Dual-core Cortex A9 @2.00GHz (on 32nm die), unspecified GPU
+ TI OMAP 4440: Dual-core Cortex A9 @1.5GHz, SGX 540 (90M t/s)
+ Apple A5 (iPad2): Dual-core Cortex A9 @0.9GHz, SGX 543MP2 (130M-150M t/s)
+ Qualcomm MSM8660 (Gen IV Snapdragon): Dual-core Cortex A9 @1.5GHz, Adreno 220 (88M t/s)
+ TI OMAP 4430: Dual-core Cortex A9 @1GHz, SGX 540 (90M t/s)
+ ST-Ericson U8500: Dual-core Cortex A9 @1.2GHz, ARM Mali 400 (50-80M t/s)
+ Samsung Orion: Dual-core Cortex A9 @1GHz, ARM Mali 400 (50-80M t/s)
+ Nvidia Tegra 2: Dual-core Cortex A9 @1GHz, nVidia ULP-GeForce (71M t/s)
+ Qualcomm Scorpion (Gen III Snapdragon): Dual-core Cortex A8 @1.2GHz, Adreno 220 (88M t/s)
– The SGX530 is roughly half the speed as the SGX535. The SGX540 is twice as fast as the SGX535.
– The Adreno 205 (41M tri/sec) is supposedly faster than the SGX535 but slower than the SGX540 (thus, is likely to be in the mid).
– The Adreno 220 is twice the speed of the Adreno 205 but it is slightly slower than SGX540 (88M vs 90M tri/sec).
– Samsung claims ARM Mali 400 to be 5 times faster than its previous GPU (S3C6410 – 4M tri/sec), about on par (80M tri/sec) with the Adreno 220, but few leaks benchmarked it to be only slighlty faster than the SGX535 (40M tri/sec).
– The gpu used in the Nvidia Tegra2 has been quite contained (little known). I estimated the Tegra2 has 71M t/sec (Tegra 2 Neocore=27fps/55fps=Galaxy S Neocore, x62% disadvantage of screen resolution, x 90Mt/s of SGX540 = 71M t/s). And recently some inside rumors via fudzilla actually confirmed this exact figure, so therefore the gpu-chip inside the Tegra2 is roughly equivalent to the MALI 400.
All of these details are based on officially announced, rumors from trustworthy sources and logical estimations, so discrepancies can be existent.
As you can see there is some diversity in the next-gen chips (soon to-be current-gen), where the top tier (OMAP 4440) is roughly 1.5 times more powerful than the low tier (Tegra 2). However drivers and software will play a lead-role in determining which device could squeeze out the most performance. And this factor may alone favour the iPad2, Playbook or even MeeGo tablets to be better than the Honeycomb tablets which are somewhat bottleneck-ed by the lack of hardware accelaration and post-transcription through the Dalvik VM. I think we’ve hit the point where we could have some really impressive high definition entertainment, and even emulating the Dreamcast at decent/fullspeed.
edit2 [March 13]: “ Just re-edited the post. Apple’s A5 details are added in, its looks to be one of the best chips for the year. If I had to choose between the OMAP4440 and A5, I probably would be reduced to a head-tail coin flip!”
Well, Apple’s been boasting over x9 the graphical performance over the original iPad. There are 2 articles on anadtech, one in Geekbench and a processor-specific details from imgtech (I dug up from 12months ago). It has been found that its a modified Cortex A9, 512MB RAM and the SGX543MP2. Everything points to the SGX543MP2 being significantly faster than the SGX540, and the given number was 133 Million Polygons per second (theoretical) for SGX543MP4 which is double SGX543MP2 performance. The practical figure is always less. Imgtech said the SGX540 is double the grunt of the SGX535, benchmarks show the SGX543MP2 is (on average) five times the grunt as the iPad (SGX535). So going by imgtech (the designer of sgx chips), the theoretical value that I list above, should be 70M t/s … going by Apple’s claim it should be 200M t/s … going by benchmarks it should be roughly 130 M t/s. Imgtech’s value is definently wrong since they claimed its faster than the SGX540 valued at 90M t/s. Apple’s claim also seems biased, they take only the best possible conditions and exaggerate it even more. It seems to be somewhere in between, and wouldn’t you know it, the average of the two “false” claims is equivalent to the benchmarked value
edit3 [April 3]: “Update. The benchmark results of the Snapdragon MSM8660 are in…. and it goes further to support the list. MSM 8660 = Dualcore A9 + Adreno 220 + Qualcomm modification (for better/worse).”
The benchmarks are out for the 4th-gen QSD, which confirms everything prior. It’s competing for top place against the 4440 and A5. I’ve changed the post (only updated chip’s name). If one were to choose between the processor of the A5 and the OMAP4440, they’d be really pressed to choose between more cpu grunt or more gpu grunt.
Qualcomm roadmap reveals quad-core, 2.5GHz ARM CPU [July 6, 2011]
MSM8960 [start shipping in Q4 2011]: Adreno 225 3D/2D 125 M tri./sec (DX9.3) – said to rival the GPU powering the Playstation Vita
MSM8930 [start shipping in Q3 2012]: Adreno 305 3D 80M tri./sec (DX9.3) – take us far beyond the possibilities of the Playstation Vita and more into the realm of the Xbox 360 or the Playstation 3
MSM8974 [start shipping in Q1 2013]: Adreno 320 3D 225M tri/sec (DX9.3)
Samsung Galaxy uses PowerVR SGX540 (rated at 1 gigapixel fill-rate, and 28M triangles/sec)
Iphone 3GS/4 both use PowerVR SGX535 (1 gigapixel, 14M tri/sec)
Droid 2/Droid X use PowerVR SGX530 (500 megapixel, 14M tri/sec)
Droid uses underclocked PowerVR SGX530 (250 megapixel, 7M tri/sec)
Snapdragon uses Adreno 200 (133 megapixel, 22M tri/sec)
So when it comes to the GPU, the Galaxy S phones kill anything that uses a current Snapdragon. The fill-rate is what is what’s really holding back the Adreno.
As for the CPU, I’ll generalize here.
Snapdragon – ARMv7 based Scorpion core (NOT an A8 like some state). Advantages over A8 is 5% faster clock for clock, and ability to be used in a multi-core configuration. Basically, it’s more future proof.
TI OMAP – stock Cortex A8, but currently running at 45nm, so better on battery life than Snapdragon (this will change with the new Snapdragons coming out)
Hummingbird – modified Cortex A8, 10-20% faster multi-threaded performance, but also 45nm so with better battery life as well.
So in terms of CPU, it’s Galaxy > Snapdragon/OMAP (depends, do you want 5% more performance, or significantly better battery life?)
So in conclusion, the Galaxy phones have more horsepower than the Incredible. If you plan to root and run custom ROMs, it should be the platform of choice.