Qualcomm has just announced two new chips, the MSM8225Q and the MSM8625Q. Both are quad core chips that will fall under the “S4 Play” brand, which means they’re meant for low end to midrange smartphones. How can a quad core chip be built to go inside bargin basement handsets? Easy, the “S4 Play” chips are vastly different from the “S4″ chips inside devices like the American HTC One X and the American Samsung Galaxy S3. Whereas a regular S4 is built with 28 nanometer transistors and uses Qualcomm’s incredibly advanced Krait processor cores, the cheaper S4 Play chips are built using 45 nanometer transistors and make use of ARM’s Cortex A5 processor cores. In other words, by adding the term “Play” to the well known “S4″ brand, Qualcomm has managed to confuse almost everyone.
Back to the news, what’s the difference between the the MSM8225Q and the MSM8625Q? The former can only connect to UMTS networks (translation: 3G networks using the GSM standard), while the latter can connect to UMTS and CDMA networks (translation: Verizon). Other than that, they’re both the same. They both offer 720p video recording, they both support 720p screens, and they both support LPDDR2, which is a faster type of RAM that should make smartphones snappier.
When will you be able to buy a phone using these new chips? Qualcomm says as early as Q1 2013. That’s just half a year away. Should you buy a phone that uses one of Qualcomm’s S4 Play chips? That’s hard to say. Right now we only know of one device that makes use of the S4 Play, and that’s the HTC Desire X. It uses a dual core S4 Play however, not the quad core variant. If and when we get that device in our labs, we’ll let you know how it performs.
I think here’s where the Taiwanese, Mediatek has Qualcomm beat: The MTK6588 packs a quad-core Cortex A7 (that’s better performance out of the box) on a 28nm process, the same as the S4 Kraits. I’m personally really excited about the MTK6588. Not so much for these S4 Play chips. They do need to have a smaller process to be competitive.
The problem is that smartphones based on Mediatek chipsets never, ever, leave a handful of Asian countries (plus Russia). There are IP issues and all that jazz. Sadly.
Not a problem for me, since I live in Singapore :p Actually you can get Mediatek based phones from certain places online. For example, Amazon sells a MTK6577 based one:
However, the 6577 is in my opinion, severely crippled due to the ancient SGX531. The 6588 is a huge improvement, due not only to the Quad-A7, but also because it uses a SGX544.
Happily, apparently the newer MTK series are pin compatible, so manufacturers can easily implement it in their production very quickly.