Motorola X8 Mobile Computing System: A closer look at the “8-core” chip powering the new Droids

by: David GonzalesJuly 25, 2013

Rogers Moto X video leak
The recent Motorola Droid smartphone launch gave us a taste of things to come, both from Android godfather Google and of course, Motorola itself. And in our news coverage from a few days ago, we informed you of the new Motorola X8 Mobile Computing System, a newly-minted System-on-a-Chip setup designed specifically for a new type of mobile device — one that is supposed to offer a truly always-on mobile experience.

Put simply, the Motorola X8 is a new SoC concocted by Motorola for use in its new devices — and possibly in some upcoming devices, as well. But what makes it different from all the other SoCs present on other devices today? And is it really as groundbreaking as Motorola makes it out to be?

We’ve already gone over some of the Motorola X8’s details in our previous report, in which we mentioned that it will be present in all three new Android-powered phones announced recently for Motorola: the Droid Mini, Droid Maxx, and Droid Ultra. We’ve also been able to determine a little bit about the Motorola X8 when it comes to technical specs without having to pull an iFixit, thanks to information shared on Google+ by Taylor Wimberly.

Motorola’s X8 Mobile Computing System

Motorola X8 Mobile Computing System | Image credit: The Verge

If you want to know more about what the Motorola X8 really is, we’re here to help. And the way we’re going to do that is by telling you what it isn’t.

Octa-core is a misnomer

Although the Motorola X8 utilizes a total of eight different processor cores, it is not, as some people have referred to it, an eight-core (octa-core) processor, at least not in the truest sense of the word. In reality, the Motorola X8 would fall under the category of a dual-core processor if you really want to get technical, as it only really relies on two main processor cores clocked at 1.7GHz for actual app processing duties.

“New” is subjective

And while the X8 is being billed as a system that only Motorola could have built — only a small part of it is actually new. In fact, as some have rightly pointed out, it’s simply a modified Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro, fitted with two new specialized low-power cores to take care of all the always-on needs for the latest batch of Android-powered Motorola devices.

What about the remaining cores?

The Motorola X8 still has six other cores, apart from the two main ones. Four of those belong to the GPU, which is said to be an Adreno 320. Each graphics core runs at 400MHz, helping it deliver a 3.2 million pixel fill rate, plus 155 frames per second (fps) in the Egypt performance benchmark.

And then there’s the pair of specialized low-power cores for the always-on functionality. Here’s where things get really interesting. The Motorola X8 is being touted as having both a local-natural language processor (or L-NLP) and a contextual computing processor (or CCP), which take care of voice commands and sensor-based actions, respectively. These are the things that make the X8 unique in the typically small world of the SoC. And Motorola is counting on them to succeed.

The power of low-power

motorola-droid-ultra-aa-front small
Motorola could have just as easily created a new quad-core SoC to cope with the computing demands of its newest devices, but instead, it decided to take an entirely different route. The X8 system offers a number of cool new “touchless control” features while circumventing the problem of worse battery life.

As you can imagine, a system that is always on, always listening, and always awake will drain the battery of any battery-powered device really fast. With the X8, Motorola has taken a bold new approach to kill two birds with one stone by using fewer cores and utilizing an extra pair of low-power cores for only the specialized computing tasks.

The end result, as Motorola would have it, is a mobile computing system that is able to “deliver great experiences without killing the battery.” That’s pretty much the end-game of Motorola here: to keep its newest always-on devices, well, always on.


We get that an always-on device that runs out of batteries less than half a day from disconnecting from the charger won’t do anybody any good. So the fact that the Motorola X8 comes with dedicated language processing and contextual processing cores that don’t require as much battery power as normal cores makes a lot of sense.

It’s difficult to say whether other SoC makers will follow Motorola’s lead or not, but we won’t be surprised if any do. If always-on technologies like Google Now ever truly pick up, then this might just be the basis for the SoC of the future.

  • mumusen

    From where can I get this wallpaper and the same EXACT clock widget?
    I got the rings digital clock widget but that doesn’t roll like this one.

    • MasterMuffin

      Buy a Motorola device :) If there’s demand, someone will probably port it to other devices

      • mumusen

        What’s the use of buying android when you can’t hack, tweak and port, fella? :).. I am sure someone will rip the wallpaper and stuff outta this device, soon!

        • MasterMuffin

          I’m sure about that too, just giving you the fastest option :P

          • mumusen

            lol yeah

          • Mobile Phones Fan

            I am in no hurry

            Get comfortable. ;-) I doubt anybody will offer that clock widget as a standalone. Motorola considers it a proprietary differentiating feature for their mobile devices.

            A set of ripped files appeared briefly on XDA, last year. Motorola lawyers got it pulled down (including from every sharing site I could track down) within 24 hours.

            And let’s note that Moto’s clock widget is not packed as an universal APK. It requires certain proprietary firmware, found only in recent Motorola devices (c.f.: MotoKore).

  • Magnetic1

    My thinking is the display take up like 80 to 90 percent of power usage. And some things you see on the display does not need to have great frame fresh rate nor color accuracy. Assuming the back light and RGB color components can be adjusted why not allow the user to make setting changes to the display depending on the content. Basically right now it doesn’t matter if you have pictures, videos, games, eBook text, or text heavy web pages the display is on full blast.

  • lambda

    so no Security Processor Core ?
    secure processing vault anyone ?

  • vaghoust

    but still on demanding games it will drain it fast,right?

    • Benjamin Rodriguez

      Yeah, same as a regular S4 Pro.

  • jjordan

    The adreno 320 is a pretty efficient GPU for gaming but if battery longevity was there ultimate goal the adreno 330 should have been used in these devices

  • Justin Foster

    This article actually made me like this site again. +1

  • Anony

    Sort of like htc “ultrapixel” approach? Taking old technology and adding some of the company’s sugar coating and delivering a questionable experience that may end up well.

  • Sam

    “…it’s simply a modified Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro, fitted with two new specialized low-power cores…”

    This is misleading/incomplete information regarding the S4 Pro without specifically mentioning the number of Application Processor cores in Motorola’s SoC has been reduced from 4, even if you did state the new processor has 2 AP cores.

    • Sam

      Ignore that post, the MSM8960T is dual core

  • john

    So…we are taking DSPs as “Cores”?
    I think this is stretching the definition a bit.

  • Joe Blo

    I lost all interest in Windows Phone after seeing Google`s demo.

  • Danilo

    Great point of view.