Most of you probably won't recall the processor named MSM8960 which was announced back in Feb 2009 by Qualcomm.
This is what Qualcomm claimed about MSM8960:
An executive from Qualcomm also said:
So what is this MSM8960?
The MSM8960 features radio frequency, software and pin-compatibility with the MSM8260 and MSM8660 chipsets. (read this article if you want to know more about MSM8x60 processors). Why is this important? This basically means, if you, as a manufacturer, already produces a phone that uses MSM8x60 processor, it is very cheap for them to switch over. As mentioned in the previous article about MSM8x60, this dual-core processor based phones are expected to be out to the public sometime during Q1 of 2011, featuring the 3rd generation GPU called Adreno 220. So what makes MSM8960 more powerful than already impressive looking MSM8x60? Remember, phones based on MSM8x60 may come to us as early as Q1 of 2011.
Lets compare the two here:
MSM8x60: (where x equals 2 or 6)
- uses two Cortex A8 based processor cores
- includes Adreno 205 GPU
- 45nm die
- clocked at 1.2GHz
- to be built on the 28nm process!
- uses two Cortex A9 based processor cores (which also means it will implement out-of-order design)
- 75% less power consumption!
The following paragraph is straight out of my Samsung Orion article which explains what it means to have out-of-order design:
Qualcomm claims 5x the performance improvement over the original Snapdragon processor - QSD8250 featured in Nexus One and every Windows Phone 7 out there. So how did they derive this number?
At the same clock speed (meaning at 1GHz):
- dual core means 2x
- out of order execution design brings in another 25%
The above combined only gives us 2.5x. MSM8960 will probably feature a larger cache so that will help and so would higher clock speed. If they go for 1.5GHz, Qualcomm's claim just might be feasible.
What about MSM8x60 in comparison to QSD8250?
- dual core also means 2x
- 1.2GHz means another 20% gain
So that makes MSM8x60 about 2.4x more powerful than the original QSD8250. Will MSM8960 really be twice as powerful as Qualcomm's first dual-core processor, MSM8x60? That would be impressive if they can pull this off!
And what about that 75% less power consumption claim? I find this hard to believe. 28mm die will definitely help out tremendously. But I doubt it will be enough to reduce the power consumption to 1/4 of what it used to be. Perhaps they are measuring it based on the amount of work the processor is doing?
What about the GPU?
Qualcomm did not mention which GPU core is used by MSM8960. But they are claiming 4x the performance improvement, probably over Adreno 200 featured in QSD8250.
Currently we have the following possibilities:
- Adreno 205 - this is the 2nd generation GPU, first used by HTC G2 as a part of MSM7230 SoC. (Read more about Adreno 205 in this article). According to Qualcomm's specification page, Adreno 205 is about 2x the performance of Adreno 200.
- Adreno 220 - this is the 3rd generation GPU, to be first used by MSM8x60 processor mentioned earlier. According to Qualcomm's specification page, Adreno 220 is once again, about 2x the performance of Adreno 205. Can you guess which GPU MSM8960 may end up using? Bingo!
When can we expect smartphones to use this processor?
Qualcomm says they will sample MSM8960 starting in 2011 which means you should not expect any smartphones based on this processor until 2012.
What about that other processor Qualcomm has on their line up?
Which one? You mean QSD8672? If you got this right, you have a great memory!
Have a look at what QSD8672 was supposed to feature:
- dual-core 1.5GHz
- Cortex A9 based design
- Adreno 220 GPU
Does this sound familiar? Yes it does - it sounds exactly like MSM8960! What's more interesting is that Qualcomm no longer lists this processor on their Snapdragon family specification sheet! They must have renamed or slightly re-packaged QSD8672 into MSM8960. Phones based on QSD8672 was supposed to be out by Q4 of 2011, so the estimation of 2012 for MSM8960 sounds about right.
Qualcomm always had this processor already on their future line up, called QSD8972 so this is really a 3rd generation processor. The "new" MSM8960 should be a 1.5GHz, dual-core Cortex A9 based processor, featuring Adreno 220 GPU. Phone manufacturers will probably try very hard to get phones based on this processor into the market before the Christmas of 2011.
Looks like Samsung Orion with equivalent design may hit the market before MSM8960. OMAP 4 based phones will probably hit earlier as well, but with a less powerful GPU (PowreSGX540, yes the same one used by Samsung's Hummingbird!). Cortex A9 based NVIDIA Tegra 2 will be out way before this processor (Q4 2010/Q1 2011) but likely to feature a less powerful GPU. By the time MSM8960 is ready, NVIDIA may have Tegra 3 ready (they have already publicized this). I expect Samsung's Orion and MSM8960 to fight for the best performing processor title during Q4 2011/Q1 2012, with NVIDIA Tegra 3 filling the roll as the dark horse.