Next year is looking to be a very important year for smartphone and tablet performance. Just as we saw widespread migration to the ARM Cortex A8 and Qualcomm Scorpion CPU cores in smartphones in 2010, in the next 12 months we will see the first tablets and smartphones based on dual-core SoCs from TI, Qualcomm and NVIDIA. The long awaited Tegra 2 will start shipping in smartphones and tablets in early 2011, and Qualcomm will have its own 45nm dual-core Snapdragon SoCs featured in devices as well. Today TI is announcing more details on its OMAP 4440, a high performance dual-core Cortex A9 SoC slated for production in the second half of 2011.

The OMAP 4430 is a 45nm SoC expected to replace the current 3630 and 3430 used in high end smartphones today. The 3630 will move further downstream and exist within more mainstream smartphones.

The 4430 features a pair of ARM Cortex A9s running at 1GHz with a PowerVR SGX 540 GPU from Imagination Technologies. The Cortex A9 features a shorter pipeline than the current A8 and Scorpion cores and thus should boast a higher IPC. It also enables some amount of out-of-order execution.

The A9 cores share a 1MB L2 cache and are paired with two 32-bit LPDDR2 memory controllers. The memory bus can support LPDDR2 devices at data rates up to 400MHz. This gives the OMAP 4430 the potential to offer 4x the memory bandwidth of the 3630, which means better CPU and GPU performance as well as more flexibility with video.

The architectural improvements should result in significant performance gains in everything from OS interaction to web browsing. We’ve already seen real world improvements as high as 50% vs. existing A8/Snapdragon platforms.

The PowerVR SGX 540 GPU is used in Samsung’s Hummingbird SoC, which we’ve seen in the Galaxy S line of smartphones. This is already the fastest ultra mobile GPU we’ve tested, so its well suited for use in the 4430.

Today’s announcement isn’t about the 4430 however, it’s about the 4440. A higher performance OMAP4 variant, the 4440 is still built on a 45nm process, it still features a pair of Cortex A9s and a PowerVR SGX 540 GPU - but it just runs faster.

OMAP 4440 vs. 4430 Feature List - Provided by TI
Feature Benefit
Two ARM Cortex A9 MPCores @ 1.5GHz each 50% increase in overall performance, 33% reduction in webpage load time
End-to-end graphics acceleration enhancement (triangles per second, fill rate and shaders) 25% increase in overall graphics performance
Support for HDMI v1.4 3D modes Full 1080p HD S3D playback to 3D TV
1080p60 video format support 2x higher performance video playback
Support for up to two 12-megapixel cameras in parallel Higher stereoscopic resolution encode enabling stereo photography, which meets the same resolution previously experienced only with 2D photography
IVA 3 multimedia hardware accelerator Industry’s highest quality video playback at low bit rates
Complete pin-to-pin hardware and software compatibility Easy migration from the OMAP4430 processors

The A9s run at 1.5GHz and although TI isn’t announcing the SGX 540’s clock speed, it promises a 25% increase in overall graphics performance (triangle rate, fill rate). Presumably the GPU is clocked 25% higher than in the 4430 (which could be as high as 400MHz).

There are more video features on the 4440 as well. You get 60 fps 1080p decode support (bitrate limitations aren't completely fleshed out, but TI has some details in a whitepaper- PDF link), and the SoC supports up to two 12-megapixel camera sensors (potentially for use in high resolution stereoscopic 3D photography). HDMI 1.4 and stereoscopic 3D are also supported by the SoC.

OMAP 4440 Mobile Video Teleconferencing Features - Provided by TI
Mobile video teleconferencing component OMAP4440 processor-enabled feature
High-quality mobile video conferencing Improved video quality in low-light conditions; video stabilization
Chat software (i.e., Skype or Google Talk) Video codec support includes H.264, VP7, H.263, SVC, and more
Peer-to-peer (1 local user with one other user) chat functionality 1080p mobile video conferencing
Multi-chat (1 local user with up to 4 other users) functionality 720p resolution with stereo audio support
Cloud access for simultaneous application support (e.g., browsing the web while chatting or document sharing) Optimized symmetric multiprocessing architecture to deliver low latency and high bandwidth support

The OMAP4440 is pin compatible with the OMAP4430 and thus can be dropped into existing OMAP4 designs if need be. The SoC will be sampling in Q1 2011 and be in production in 2H 2011. I’d expect the 4440 to be used in tablets while the 4430 seems more like a smartphone SKU.

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  • Exodite - Wednesday, December 08, 2010 - link

    Bah, typos. :( Reply
  • metafor - Wednesday, December 08, 2010 - link

    If it was an identical dual core vs single core, that would not be true. I don't know how this idea got started in the press.

    Energy consumption for a given task will remain the same whether you're peaking at 1A for 100ms or 500mA for 200ms.

    Dual core is a win because to complete the same task as an identical single core, you don't have to use 2x the power due to the non-linear way frequency scales with voltage (and therefore, power).
    Reply
  • Exodite - Wednesday, December 08, 2010 - link

    You're only looking at the power draw of the SoC however, in reality that's only going to make up part of the actual power draw.

    If calculating the workload slower means more time with the display or various radio units active a faster execution time will end up as a net gain in power efficiency.
    Reply
  • metafor - Wednesday, December 08, 2010 - link

    Agreed. But I would question how that scenario comes about in real-world usage. When a person is using a smartphone, the vast majority of time spent viewing with the display on is when the page has loaded and the processor is for the most part idle. The actual load time for today's 1GHz parts is trivial.

    Is the 1s difference between page loads (I'm being generous here) going to be a blip on the radar of reading an article?

    I don't think any of the other components with today's 1GHz parts will really be bottlenecked by the processor either. Hell, in most cases, the SoC has dedicated units to handle talking to those external devices.

    I agree that back in the days of ARM11 iPhones, upgrading to a Cortex A8 and more memory definitely helped overall battery life. But we're pretty much at a point of diminishing returns for that now.
    Reply
  • Exodite - Thursday, December 09, 2010 - link

    Perhaps.

    I'd say that one of the other selling points of dual-core SoCs is enabling usage scenarios that we haven't really thought of yet though.

    As for the upgrade path it's probably worth considering that a rather large part of existing Cortex A8-based devices are also manufactured at 65nm so there's the improvement in manufacturing to take into consideration as well.
    Reply
  • sleepeeg3 - Wednesday, December 08, 2010 - link

    Relevant.

    What work load? Web browsing? Gaming? We met those years ago.

    Processors with more transistors require more power to idle. A faster processor's negative impact on battery life is a bigger problem than most anything else a phone would typically be used for.

    I rarely use my phone for websurfing, rarely for gaming or anything else. Why pay $500/year to surf the web when I can use a more versatile laptop or desktop virtually everywhere I want to connect?

    I do, however, use my phone for CALLING people. When the battery is dead, because of a marketing decision to use the most power hungry processor currently available and I can't make a critical phone call - that bothers me.
    Reply
  • name99 - Thursday, December 09, 2010 - link

    "
    I do, however, use my phone for CALLING people. When the battery is dead, because of a marketing decision to use the most power hungry processor currently available and I can't make a critical phone call - that bothers me.
    "

    If only there were competition in the phone space so that people could trade off what was most important to them...

    Seriously, WTF are people worrying about? The chip hasn't even shipped yet and already we have people panicking that this means, in a bizarre reversal of phone trends to date, that EVERY manufacturer next year is going to be selling nothing but devices with very short battery lives.
    Reply
  • Exodite - Thursday, December 09, 2010 - link

    I don't understand why this is even an issue then, considering that you don't even seem to be in the market for a smartphone.

    Both web browsing and gaming stand to benefit from faster SoCs. Or, conversely, faster SoCs would enable more advanced gaming and web browsing technology.

    My 5 year old Nokia dumbphone still lasts about two weeks on a single charge but that doesn't mean I consider it the future of mobile devices.
    Reply
  • marc1000 - Wednesday, December 08, 2010 - link

    and if I had to choose between 50% longer battery life and 50% smaller size with same performance (in volume), I would gladly choose the latter. This is the reason it is impossible to please everyone.

    For me, the holy grail of mobile phones would be the current 1ghz cpu's inside something the size of Nokia 2730, even if we had to live with a smaller screen.
    Reply
  • Exodite - Wednesday, December 08, 2010 - link

    Seeing as the display is by far the largest power drain in a modern smartphone you might just be able to get both. :) Reply

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