There’s no secret why the ARM architecture has trounced the x86 architecture in the mobile arena. The lowest Intel mobile processors (utilizing the Atom architecture) can get is 0.65 W (800 MHz Silverthorne, Atom Z Series), while ARM processors are typically well below half a watt in power consumption.
Overall, at similar clock speeds, the ARM architecture simply appears to hold certain power efficiency advantages. The natural question becomes, if ARM can work such wonders in the power sensitive mobile arena, could it compete in the more computing-power sensitive netbook/notebook arena.
Qualcomm, one of the biggest ARM licensees, apparently believes the answer is “yes.” At Computex 2010 in Taiwan, Qualcomm unveiled its third-generation Mobile Station Modem MSM8260 and MSM8660 Snapdragon chipsets, with the option of dual-core ARM CPUs clocked at up to 1.2 GHz.
The MSM8260 supports HSPA+, a rising 3.5G technology being deployed by AT&T and T-Mobile. The MSM8660 supports both HSPA+ and rival 1xEV-DO Rev. B tech, a 3.5G technology which will be utilized by Verizon and Sprint during their own 4G transition. Support for these advanced standards makes the chipset ideally suited for making speedy next generation cell phones.
Among the other impressive features integrated on the chip include GPS, a GPU with 2D / 3D acceleration engines for Open GL ES 2.0 and Open VG 1.1, 1080p video encoding and decoding, a dedicated low-power audio engine, and support for 24-bit WXGA 1,280 x 800 pixel displays. The GPU is likely sourced from AMD/ATI as past chipsets, such as the one used in the Nexus One, had a dedicated on-chip GPU die based on the z430 (ATI/AMD) design.
Thus far, no one has shown off any SnapDragon 1.2 GHz dual core smartphones or netbooks, but we can only hope and assume the industry’s finest are toiling away to make some killer next generation devices.
Thus far, the Android platform has made heavy use of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon arsenal, so don’t be surprised if you see a dual-core Android smartphone storming onto the market sometime in the near future. Let’s just hope it has a very big battery or some smart switching technology to turn off the second core when not in use.
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