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News In Brief: Krait 300 Bumps Up Performance

December 18, 2012

Author: Linley Gwennap

Less than a year after shipping the first processors using its Krait CPU, Qualcomm will deliver products with a new and improved Krait microarchitecture, boosting its performance by 10% or more. The new CPU, dubbed Krait 300, appears in the MSM8960 Pro (also known as the MSM8960T) and the APQ8064 Pro, which are now sampling. The company expects these two products to enter production in 1Q13, about nine months after the MSM8960, which used the original Krait 200 CPU. On this schedule, smartphones and tablets using Krait 300 would ship in 2Q13.

Despite the minor name change, the new CPU design includes some significant changes over the basic Krait microarchitecture. Qualcomm paid particular attention to Java performance, an area where the company has lagged. The microarchitecture changes boost the CPU performance from 3.1 DMIPS/MHz in Krait 200 to 3.4.

Although the pipeline remains the same, Qualcomm has tuned some critical timing paths in the physical design. As a result, the company expects the new design to yield primarily at 1.7GHz, whereas the MSM8960 today runs at 1.5GHz. In combination with the microarchitecture gains, this speedup should enable the MSM8960 Pro to achieve at least 24% better performance than the MSM8960. The gains will be as much as 30% on Java code and on applications with frequent memory accesses, such as Sunspider. These gains come with little or no increase in power.

As previously announced, the MSM8960 Pro upgrades the GPU from the previous-generation Adreno 225 to the Adreno 320, doubling its performance. To facilitate upgrades, the Pro versions are socket-compatible with their predecessors.

An increase of 10% in performance per clock may not seem like much, but it is on par with what Intel achieves every two years; Qualcomm delivered this gain in less than a year. The new CPU will help the MSM8960 Pro keep pace with Samsung’s Exynos 5250, which is now shipping with dual 1.7GHz Cortex-A15 CPUs. In addition, the improved GPU is a better match against the powerful tricore GPU in Apple’s A6 processor. The APQ8064 Pro targets tablets and very high end smartphones and will line up against the quad-core Exynos 5450, which will also begin shipping in 1H13. Regardless of how the benchmarks fare, most OEMs are likely to prefer Qualcomm’s complete solution over competing against Samsung with its own processor.

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