In January 2007, Intel released the first quad-core processor, Core 2 Quad Kentsfield. I would never imagine that 4 years after, I would see quad-core processors in tablets and smartphones. Now, the battle for horsepower is more fierce than ever: nVidia Tegra 3 and Qualcomm Snapdragon are battling out for the fastest quad processor in the mobile market.
The Tegra 3 is one of the most advanced mobile processors out there, code-named Kal-El, based on the Cortex-A9 processor design from ARM and running at 1.5 GHz; it could have an autonomy of up to 12 hours. Improved physics-based gaming is due to the 12 (yes, 12!!) GeForce graphics cores which provide a massive improvement to the current Tegra 2 processors.
Quad Core Smartphones, Tegra 3 Tablets: Can You Envision the Tech Future?
Not stopping at quad-core, the nVidia Tegra 3 has a 500MHz fifth core, designed to take on the less demanding tasks, such as listening to music or taking a call, while the 4 high performance cores go into idle in order to preserve battery life. The release of Android Ice Cream Sandwich and nVidia Tegra 3 could not have been better synchronized, it will certainly make for some cool gadgets to come in 2012.
On the other side, we have another ARM based processor, the Qualcomm S4, nVidia’s arch rival when it comes to mobile processors. At Innovation Qualcomm, they revealed plans for a 28-nm S4 Class Snapdragon SoC featuring a quad-core 2.5 GHz CPU and a next generation quad-core Adreno GPU. The Qualcomm S4 processor promises to bring users stereoscopic 3D, 1080p HD playback, and 3G / LTE connectivity. Qualcomm announced the S4 will be available in 3 models: single, dual and quad core, maximizing its compatibility with many of the gadgets on the market.
Quad Core Smartphones, HTC aiming to be the Leader
There have been products already announced which will use these processors, such as HTC Edge or HTC Zeta and in the smartphone zone, ASUS Eee PC Transformer Prime and Acer A510/A51 in the tablet market. All these products will bring something new to the table, thus taking technology even further to a level which we cannot imagine at the moment.
HTC has always been an ally of Qualcomm, but rumors have it they will use a 1.5GHz Tegra 3 processor on this model and with 720p resolution, 8Mpx camera and 36 GB storage, they need the sturdy backbone of the Tegra 3 processor. Although nothing is certain for the moment, I hope the rumors will come true.
Keeping to more traditional lines, the rumors say that HTC will release a quad-core phone in the future. HTC Zeta will feature a 2.5 GHz Qualcomm APQ8064, 1 GB of RAM, 4.5 inch 720p screen resolution, 8 MP camera that shoots 1080p video, all in a body that weighs 146 grams. This all sounds pretty good, but the technology is a bit far from meeting the specs of the Zeta, so it might take some time before we can see it, nonetheless, it’s a beautiful concept and a target for HTC.
Qualcomm has announced the 2.5 GHz processor, but the technology to link the processor to the memory and the rest of the phone is falling behind, as said by Avner Goren, general manager for OMAP strategy at Texas Instruments:
“A quad [Cortex] A15, in this generation, will not be able to even get enough data from the memory. To feed such a beast, you need more advanced memory technologies, you need wider buses. My point is that you need to build those devices that are balanced. You can’t just put something huge in the middle but give it a tiny pipe to memory. It will never manifest its performance”
CEO at Qualcomm, Paul Jacobs added on regard to the multi-core approach mobile processors are taking:
“It’s not about how many cores or how many gigabytes, it’s how well you can optimise the system”
Many of you may have not heard about the Meizu Phone, but it made quite an impact in China. Meizu is one of the best iPhone clone distributors in the world. Now they have gone beyond of copying an iPhone and made an Android iPhone with a quad-core processor. With a 960 x 640 4.3-inch qHD screen, 8Mpx video camera and up to 32Gb storage it seems to be better than Apple iPhone 4S who only has the A5 dual-core processor. The specs look better than the iPhone 4s so it could be possible that this copy is going to be better than the real thing.
Tegra 3 Tablets
ASUS Transformer Prime
Much has been said about the Transformer Prime and it’s easy to understand why: it features the Tegra 3 processor, it has a removable dock and keeping to what nVidia said about the Tegra 3, a battery life of up to 12 hours on its own (without the dock, which can extend the autonomy to 18 hours). ASUS and nVidia are old partners, so the Transformer Prime will surely be one of the greatest applications of nVidia’s Tegra 3 processor.
Another piece of tech that will use nVidia Tegra 3 comes again from HTC, this time we’re talking about the Quattro tablet. Confirmed by CEO Peter Chou, Quattro will take full advantage of the Tegra 3 processor, driving 1 Gb RAM memory, 16 Gb storage with microSD card capability, Bluetooth 4.0, 5GHz WiFi and unbelivably, 720p video recording on a 2Mpx camera and HD video chat from its front 1.3Mpx camera. HTC Quattro is a cool gadget, bringing forth a HD version of HTC Watch.
After the announcement from ASUS, of making the first quad-core tablet, Transformer Prime, Lenovo is the next in line to build a tablet powered by nVidia’s new Tegra 3 T33 processor. The tab packs a punch, featuring a 10.1-inch screen, Android 4.0, 2 Gb DD3 at 1600Mhz, USB host socket, “Special Fusion-Skin Body” coating and a fingerprint scanner on the back, which doubles as a gaming joystick. With this addition to the quad-core race, Lenovo has a chance of getting in the top of 2012’s most awaited gadgets.
What will Apple’s Answer be?
Although Apple hasn’t issued any response to the Tegra 3 (known as the iPad Killer), we still have to see if their A6 quad-core processor will be better than the nVidia’s, and with Samsung’s help, Apple may stand to catch some ground, after all, Tegra 3 seems to be bigger and better than the A5 processor for many folks.
Could Apple be perceived as a weak player in the market if they’ll decide, theoretically speaking, to use the uber-fast Tegra processor? I really hope Apple will change its strategy, not because I don’t like how their processor fare, but would be nice to see an exotic alliance between Apple and another processor maker. I don’t know if this is even possible, but, from where I stand, an Apple-Intel partnership could give a new meaning to Apple’s products.
Tegra 3 and other quad-core mobile processors seem to be the way mobile technology is going in the future. The advancements made by nVidia and Qualcomm could pave the way for the other producers to make more powerful devices, so we could see a Apple iPad 6 with a “A9 quad-core” processor or a Galaxy Tab 3 with Tegra 3 and Android 4.0 in the not so distant future. Apple will simply be forced to make products equally good as the competition or, even better. That’s why, iPad 3 and iPhone 5 might land on the shelves as truly revolutionary products.