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Qualcomm takes on mobile competition

Posted: 09 Mar 2012     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:GPU  mobile graphics  DX11 

Qualcomm is not worried about its competition in mobile graphics, according to Rob Chandhok, Qualcomm Inc.'s president for Internet services and innovation centre, speaking at this year's Mobile World Congress.

Chandhok claimed that Qualcomm shipped more GPUs "than anyone else in the world." He also said that though the chips may currently lack DX11 support, they had "the correct architecture for mobile."

"Dx11 is something we're working on, for the first time," said Chandhok, explaining that it was highly complex compared to previous iterations of the technology, owing to various bits of silicon needing to be added in.

Chandhok denied claims that Qualcomm may have fallen behind its competition in terms of graphics, however, saying that the firm had the best and brightest graphical engineers who were working on bringing the Adreno platform up to speed.

"We made a significant investment in taking on the AMD graphics," he said, alluding to the Rs.321.78 crore ($65 million) Qualcomm paid to acquire AMD's mobile graphics unit back in 2009.

"We don't see any need to use Imagination Technologies, like our competitors do," he added, when asked whether adopting the same graphics partner as Intel Corp. and Texas Instruments Inc. would accelerate matters somewhat.

Imagination Technologies has often said it would consider it a coup to land Qualcomm as a GPU customer, and several analysts have recommended Qualcomm use the independent graphics maker lest it lose out to competitors like Nvidia Corp., which brings its PC level graphics to the smartphone and tablet arena.

Andreno 320

Comparison of Qualcomm's Andreno 320 against other GPUs in the market.

Speaking about Qualcomm's processors in the general sense, Chandhok said Qualcomm thought about its processors "a little bit differently" to others in the space.

"Our focus is not on the number of cores, we're really about is trying to drive the user experience," said Chandhok, echoing a sentiment oft repeated by Texas Instruments.

Chandhok said that for Qualcomm, what mattered most was what happened when its chips got into users' hands, via their favourite mobile device.

"We do a lot of systems optimisations," he said explaining that Qualcomm took great pains to integrate the software with its chips, in order to think of the entire user experience pipeline and achieve "optimal balance."

Interestingly, said Chandhok, more cores did not always equal more performance, and in fact sometimes hindered things.

"Two cores outperformed four in most cases," said Chandhok showing off some Qualcomm benchmarks between its new 1.5GHz S4 8960 and its quad core 1.3-4GHz models.

Benchmark comparison

The graph shows the benchmarks between Qualcomm's 1.5GHz S4 8960 and its quad core 1.3-4GHz models.

Thermal efficiency and form factor
Another factor Chandhok said was becoming increasingly important as phones become ever more powerful is having what he called a "superior microarchitecture" to deliver thermal as well as power efficiency.

"It's important to think about how you drive the form factor without having [the phone] melt," he said, claiming that some of Qualcomm's competition could quote fast clock speeds, but that these came at a high thermal cost that could result in a short lifespan of the phones.

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