Although Qualcomm’s dual-core Snapdragon S4 (based on the ARM Cotrex A15 architecture) holds out well against other competitors in the smartphone / tablet SoC market, such as the Nvidia Tegra 3, it looks like Qualcomm is about to release a quad-core version as well, one that will target the ultra-portable laptop market, as well as the next generation of superphones.
In preparation for the release of Microsoft’s Windows 8 OS, the first Windows edition that will also come in an ARM-compatible variant, Qualcomm’s senior vice president Rob Chanhok has announced that their improved (quad-core) Snapdragon S4 chip will end up powering laptops that are thinner and lighter than what Intel currently refers to as Ultrabooks: “We think much lighter than what Intel calls an ultrabook” said Chandhok.
According to Chandhok, Windows 8 laptops using Qulacomm’s upcoming quad-core Snapdragon S4 chip will sport a number of advantages over the second generation of Intel Ultrabooks (bound to hit the market later this year), such as improved battery life and integrated 4G connectivity. Although Chandhok predictions might turn out to be accurate, it’s likely that the S4 (manufactured using the 28-nm process) will be easily outgunned by Intel Core-based Ultrabooks when it comes to raw performance.
In addition, while the S4 SoC will also include a graphics core capable of 3D graphics (a recent rumor claimed Qualcomm will be using Imagination Technology designs to provide a DX11 compatible GPU), it is highly unlikely that it will best Nvidia GPU’s in this segment, especially if the recently announced Nvidia Kepler GPU architecture makes its way to the soon to come Windows 8 tablets and laptops.
While comparing Intel-based laptops with devices built on ARM architectures seems a bit like comparing apples to oranges, Qualcomm’s main competitors will be Nvidia and Texas Instruments, as both companies will also be fighting for a piece of the Windows on ARM pie. As both of these companies have announced that they will be supplying chips for Windows 8 tablets, there is no reason why they wouldn’t also target ultra portable laptops as well.
It’s still too early to figure out what company will provide the best hardware, but it’s safe to say Nvidia and Texas Instruments won’t sit by and let Qualcomm steal the show without putting up a fight. After all, we’re talking about the first edition of Windows that bridges the gap between tablets and laptops. “Fireworks” are expected.
What are your thoughts on this? Will Qualcomm’s S4 steal the show? Will ARM-based laptops be any match to Intel’s second wave of Ultrabooks? Drop us a line in the comment section below!
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ARM-architecture tablets and smartphones ALREADY have performance and display resolution sufficient to create compelling slim notebook computers. The focus on super-long battery life among ARM silicon providers whose histories include supporting smartphones (including Qualcomm) will definitely be welcomed by consumers.