Linley on Mobile
Snapdragons Proliferate in 28nmDecember 12, 2011
Author: Linley Gwennap
All systems are “go” for Qualcomm’s launch of 28nm Snapdragon processors next year. With the MSM8960 already sampling, the company announced several additional variations, including the MSM8x27, MSM8x30, and MSM8x60A. All of these products are part of the Snapdragon S4 series, and all use the company’s next-generation Krait CPU. In addition to the powerful CPU, the S4 processors integrate a complete 2G/3G/4G baseband. Several models support TD-SCDMA, the China Mobile standard.
The new products range in CPU speed from 1.0GHz to 1.7GHz, allowing the S4 to fill most of the company’s lineup. The 28nm technology not only improves performance, it also reduces die size, helping Qualcomm address lower price points. The first S4 processors should appear in phones in 2Q12, with others following in 2H12.
To extend the high end of the S4 line, Qualcomm is developing a quad-core Krait processor. The APQ8064 is due to sample in 1Q12, with production slated for 4Q12—shortly after the first Windows 8 PCs debut. To facilitate use in PCs, the quad-core processor includes SATA and PCI Express interfaces and supports standard PC SDRAM. The bad news is that the APQ8064 is now slated to run at the same 1.7GHz speed as the rest of the Krait products, not the butt-kicking 2.5GHz that Qualcomm’s initial press release suggested. In fact, the chip may debut at only 1.5GHz, moving to 1.7GHz as yields improve.
To refresh its low end, the company announced two new S1 products: the MSM7x25A and MSM7x27A. These products are Qualcomm’s first with ARM’s Cortex-A5 CPU. A shrink to 45nm reduces these products’ die size and manufacturing cost, helping Qualcomm offer competitive pricing. In addition, the 45nm process enables the CPU to operate at up to 800MHz in the 7x25A and 1.0GHz in the 7x27A. These single-core Cortex-A5 processors offer adequate performance for sub-$200 smartphones and are in production today.
Assuming the S4 stays on schedule, Qualcomm will have a half-year lead in bringing 28nm technology to the mobile market, giving it a big advantage in performance per watt. Furthermore, Krait will have a similar half-year lead over the first Cortex-A15 products. The S4 also offers the integrated LTE baseband and integrated Wi-Fi. Already the leader in 3G chip shipments, Qualcomm is poised to increase that lead in 2012.