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March 16, 2021

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Qualcomm’s Nu move
CPU Motherboard Computer

Qualcomm may be ditching Arm’s CPUs for its own custom CPUs, just as Samsung gave up making its own custom CPUs for its Exynos range. What gives?

First, a quick timeline:

  • Qualcomm announced it would buy chip design company Nuvia on Jan 13, 2021.
  • It said at the time: “Nuvia CPUs are expected to be integrated across Qualcomm Technologies’ broad portfolio of products, powering flagship smartphones, next-generation laptops…”
  • This morning, March 16, Qualcomm announced the Nuvia acquisition is complete. 
  • More importantly, the company revealed: “The first Qualcomm Snapdragon platforms to feature Qualcomm’s new internally designed CPUs are expected to sample in the second half of 2022,” and are going to be “designed for high-performance ultraportable laptops”.

Nuvia-CPUs in Snapdragon chips late next year — what does it all mean?

  • The first “samples” of a completely new SoC for ARM laptops probably implies we could start seeing these new chipsets in laptops sometime in 2023.
  • It’s worth mentioning here that Nuvia was co-founded by Gerard Williams III, an influential silicon engineer, previously at Arm and Apple, and part of Apple’s team during the transition to custom silicon between 2010 and 2019.
  • Regardless, this will be the first time we’ve seen custom Qualcomm CPUs inside laptops. They’ll still be Arm-based, but they won’t just be Arm’s Cortex CPUs, which anyone can purchase, build, and run.
  • It’s not exactly big brain time to see this as a response to Apple and its recent Arm-powered computers, which are all running Apple’s M1 processor and doing very well indeed.
  • Will these spill across to smartphones, too? Will the likes of, say, the Galaxy S24 and the OnePlus 12 offer a new CPU that offers a big boost? Who knows. 
  • There’s no guarantee of success. Qualcomm moved away from its own custom CPUs it previously used, up until the Snapdragon 821 in 2016.
  • And Samsung’s own powerful but inefficient “Mongoose” custom CPUs were killed off last year.

While we’re here, Qualcomm’s next desktop computing-focused Snapdragon chipset could give low-end laptops a boost: 

  • Qualcomm is reportedly developing a Snapdragon 7c successor, which is more your mid-range Arm-based PC chipset for cheap and cheerful devices like Chromebooks with LTE connectivity.
  • Like the Chromebook Spin 513 with optional LTE, for example.
Roundup

🤳 The OnePlus 9 Pro will be available in a trick mirror finish: Morning Mist. Not much word about the possible OnePlus 9R yet… (Android Authority).

Red Magic 6 series launched globally: $600 for a 165Hz flagship (Android Authority).

🤡 Antutu bans the Realme GT after it finds evidence of benchmark cheating, including massively reducing the quality of the picture in the JPG decoding test (Android Authority).

📸 ZTE is working on a flagship smartphone with three 64MP cameras (Android Authority).

🦈 Black Shark 4 launch confirmed for March 23. A busy day that day, phew (Android Authority).

🔜 Moto G100 leak shows Motorola’s Snapdragon 870 phone is ready to go global (Android Authority).

🍎 Opensignal report claims iPhone 12 is slower than almost every Android phone in 5G/4G speed tests. The S21 leads the pack here, but it is Samsung’s third-generation 5G phone, the iPhone 12 is Apple’s first. Not sure that covers it though? (9to5Mac).

🔊 While we’re here: farewell HomePod, Apple’s most misunderstood product (9to5Mac).

🕵️‍♀️ Tinder users will soon be able to access a background check database (Engadget).

🚗 GM and Microsoft-backed Cruise acquires self-driving startup Voyage in another autonomous vehicle merger (The Verge).

🎧 The new $99 Xbox Wireless Headset “is a mic-drop moment”: “it’s the best attempt at being an Xbox gaming headset and an everyday set of wireless headphones I’ve tried yet” (The Verge).

📰 Facebook will pay News Corp to use its content in Australia, ending that battle (Engadget).

👨‍💻 A hacker got all my texts for $16 — a deep dive into just how bad SMS is (Vice).

🌞 NASA gets a quick peek at a mysterious layer of the Sun: map of the chromosphere’s magnetic field could help us predict solar weather patterns (Wired).

😬 Cricut now wants users to pay extra for unlimited use of …cutting machines they already own (Gizmodo).

📺 Reviews are out of the Justice League’s Snyder Cut: “No longer Whedonesque—and all the better” is how Ars Technica sees it, but opinions are wildly different, and a lot of people just aren’t sure if four hours is worth it. Also: “Even a good superhero flick (and this definitely isn’t) shouldn’t be this long,” is what The Hollywood Reporter thinks. General agreement that it’s better.

Chart Tuesday

Pi Day is old news but this little chart race tracking the frequency of digits in Pi (r/dataisbeautiful), is pretty entertaining:

pi digits
  • If you do watch, it becomes the number seven gets all the attention. You’ll see what I mean.

All the best,

Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor

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