Final Words

It goes without saying that MSM8960 is a hugely important SoC release for Qualcomm. It's the first release with Qualcomm's new Krait CPU architecture, an entirely new cellular baseband with support for nearly every air interface, and is manufactured on TSMC's 28nm process. It says something that we're able to hold 28nm TSMC silicon in our hands in the form of the MDP, and it's only a matter of time before we start seeing Krait show up in devices in 2012.

We've gone over basically all of the benchmarks available to us on Android right now, and yet subjective performance impressions are still valuable. The MDP8960 is the absolute fastest we've seen Ice Cream Sandwich thus far - the UI is absolutely butter smooth everywhere, and web browsing in either Chrome or the stock Android Browser is also the smoothest we've seen it. There's no stutter bringing up the application switcher, or taking screenshots, two places that 4.0.3 still drops frames on the Galaxy Nexus.

Krait offers another generational leap in mobile SoC performance. The range of impact depends entirely on the workload but it's safe to say that it's noticeable. The GPU side of the equation has been improved tremendously as well, although that's mostly a function of 28nm enabling a very high clock speed for Qualcomm's Adreno 225. We are eager to see what the Adreno 3xx GPUs that will pair up with future Krait SoCs can do.

The big unknowns today are power consumption and the performance of shipping devices. While we were able to provide power numbers using Qualcomm's handy Trepn tool, we couldn't produce a reference point on older silicon. The move to 28nm and a second generation of cellular basebands has generally been heralded as being the answer to our battery life issues, particularly with LTE. It remains to be seen just how much of an improvement we'll see there. Knowing how much power MSM8960's cellular architecture uses is especially relevant when you consider that MDM9615 includes the exact same modem as MSM8960.

These initial results look extremely promising, however. Krait based devices should begin shipping sometime next quarter, the wait is almost over.

Power Draw Measured
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  • k1ng617 - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    Honestly, I don't trust Linpack and believe it is probably one of the most outdated android benchmarks, that doesn't represent what a person will see with realworld user experience.

    Can you try out Antutu & CFBench and post the scores please?
    Reply
  • juicytuna - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    Indeed. Linpack is a test of software as much as hardware, who knows what kind of optimizations they could have done to the VM to get these headline grabbing scores.

    GPU is distincly meh for a 2012 soc, and single threaded performance doesn't seem that impressive to me. Sunspider and Browsermark seem to be on a par with what you'd expect to see from an A9@1.5ghz.

    And how much of that 'faster feel' can be attributed to NAND performance?
    Reply
  • metafor - Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - link

    There are some hickups in Android that have to do with the UI thread looking up storage but for the most part, it's a CPU thing. The thing to keep in mind is that UI fluidity is an entirely different type of code than Javascript parsing. And looking at the Basemark results, Krait is quite capable in that department. Reply
  • arm.svenska - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    Why is the phone so long? I get that it is a reference design. But, could someone tell why it is like that? Reply
  • douglaswilliams - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    I don't know for sure, not a definitive answer here, just adding to the discussion.

    Like you said, it's a reference design (Mobile Development Platform). They put as little time as possible into making this pretty.

    When I was in college we had some old development platforms for some Motorola chips that were essentially a large circuit card with ports on all the sides for all the I/O and buttons to push for different operating modes like programming mode. It in no way looked like what an actual product would look like - because that wasn't its purpose.
    Reply
  • peevee - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    Out-of-order Krait core at 1.5GHz consumes only 750mW. An Atom core at the same frequency consumes as much as 10x of that! While being in-order, no faster, if not slower! What a fail for Intel! Reply
  • Khato - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    You might consider reading Anandtech's article covering the Intel Atom Z2460 launch in January - http://www.anandtech.com/show/5365/intels-medfield...

    Granted, we're only given SunSpider and BrowserMark benchmarks for the Atom Z2460 reference platform, but they're both actually ahead of the numbers for the Krait MDP - 1331.5 versus 1532 on SunSpider and 116425 vs 110345 on BrowserMark. While I expected Atom to be competitive, I'd thought it likely for Krait to be slightly ahead on the single threaded benchmarks, so I'm somewhat surprised that it's not. (Note that I'm somewhat surprised that there was no mention of how Krait compares to Atom Z2460 in the article.)

    As for power, that same article states that the Atom Z2460 SoC consumes ~750 mW at 1.6GHz - that's for the entire SoC, not just the CPU core. It'll be quite interesting to see how actual battery life compares between products once released.
    Reply
  • metafor - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    The difference is, one is Intel's numbers and the other is a 3rd party reviewer's on an actual device.

    So yes, I agree. We'll have to see what actual phones using Atom will be like. Note that Sunspider isn't the end-all of "single-threaded performance" either. The JIT for Javascript on x86 is far more mature -- having been developed for a decade now -- than it is for ARM.
    Reply
  • Khato - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    Well, I tend to trust Intel's numbers when they're actual hard numbers rather than percentages or normalized figures - they can't exactly get away with making up figures.

    And no question about the fact that SunSpider/Browsermark aren't indicative of all too much... but I wouldn't claim that Intel's advantages on those benchmarks are due to a superior JIT/software advantage. Remember the performance figures from that Oak Trail Tablet prototype running an early Android port from June of 2011? That was a prime example of the sort of software disadvantage that Intel had to overcome in order to get Android running well on x86. While a bit dated, here's an excellent example of the performance differences on x86 java implementations between OS (note that linux had a slightly newer version, but they were both using the latest available) - http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&...
    Reply
  • metafor - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    No, but you'd be surprised how much a bit of pick-and-choose can help. Most comprehensive reviews are pretty rigorous with how many times they repeat a test, how much warm-up they give a device and whether or not they pick the median, average, etc.

    One could easily pick the best number, which can vary quite a bit especially for a JIT benchmark.

    I've also seen that comparison before. There was a rather thorough discussion of it and its relative lack of merits at RWT. I'd link, but it's being marked as spam :/
    Reply

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