Mobile World Congress 2014 saw a wave of new processors appear on the scene. This kicked of with Intel, when it launched a major offensive into the smartphone market, unveiling its dual-core Merrifield and quad-core Moorefield Atom processors. Not wanting to be outdone by the PC heavyweight, Qualcomm answered back, unveiling its latest top-end Snapdragon 805 64-bit processor.
On paper the Snapdragon 805 is pretty impressive. Built up of four Krait 450 cores with a maximum clock speed of 2.7GHz, the chip also integrates an Adreno 420 GPU and 128-bit memory interface. But a chip by itself is never the whole story, and it's all about how it works with the other parts and software in the device.
We got to test the Snapdragon running inside several demo Android tablets at Qualcomm's MWC stand, and we were very impressed by how well they ran. Trying out the first tablet with a variety of pre-installed applications, the device was lighting fast. We were particularly impressed with how well it dealt with heavier, more demanding tasks such as 1080p 3D gaming.
We're guessing this is due to the chip's upgraded Adreno 420 GPU, which is listed as offering 40 percent better performance than the older 320. It's also likely a consequence of the fact that the Adreno 420 GPU supports new hardware tessellation and geometry shaders for 4K rendering.
Hardware tessellation is a feature traditionally only seen in discrete GPUs for PCs and it has only recently been incorporated into DirectX and next-generation games consoles such as Sony's PS4 and Microsoft's Xbox One. For us the feature's inclusion on the Snapdragon 805 is sign that Qualcomm is working to further close the gap between PCs and tablets.
4K ultra HD resolution display
We noticed the biggest Snapdragon perk on a second tablet, which had a 10.1in 4K ultra HD 3840x2160 resolution display. This display quality is only possible on the tablet thanks to the advanced GPU and CPU combination in the Snapdragon 805, and we have to concede that the 4K display is a serious technical achievement.
Viewing a variety of images on the device, we found it one of the crispest and sharpest displays we've seen on a tablet. From, what we've seen of the test device so far, the display easily beat the iPad Air's performance. Holding the tablet as close to our face as we could, we still couldn't discern individual pixels on the screen.
As an added bonus the Snapdragon 805 also offers 4K video playback, featuring support for the hardware 4K HEVC (H.265) decode for mobile. Sadly, we didn't get a chance to test this during our hands on.
There's currently no word about when the first Snapdragon 805 tablets will be go on sale, but from what we've seen of the Qualcomm demo devices, we're pretty excited. The demo tablets we tried seemed lightning fast and, while we didn't get a chance to benchmark them, they did seem to offer substantially improved performance on Qualcomm's previous Snapdragon 800 processor.
That said, the real question isn't how the Snapdragon 805 compares with the 800, it is how it will match up to the performance of Intel's Moorefield. We're yet to get a chance to test this, but with Dell, Lenovo and Asus confirmed to be working on devices using the upgraded Atom chips, hopefully we won't have to wait long to do so.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
LAS VEGAS: It's not easy to follow in the footsteps of Windows and Xbox, but that's exactly what Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 chip was tasked with doing in the first ever non-Microsoft CES opening keynote.
The mobile chip was the headlining announcement in the headlining address of the biggest technology conference of the year. With that billing comes high expectations. Does the Snapdragon 800 measure up?
The first versions of the 800 series, which will be aimed at the tablet sector, are only available in prototype devices. The first OEM models equipped with the hardware are still some months away and will likely only arrive in full force towards the end of the year.
Qualcomm has made a point of playing up the muscle behind Snapdragon. The company loves to show its complex images rendered as wireframe to underscore just how much processing power is being put into each of its demonstration scenes.
The Snapdragon 800 will largely target the gaming market in its earliest incarnations. However, where high-end gaming is found, creative professionals and other high-demand business users are not far behind. The chip offers console-quality graphics and high frame rates, while controls were fluid and responsive, even for a prototype.
Along with more processing power, Snapdragon 800 chips will feature brand new power management tools. The above meters show the chip regulating its power intake by completely turning off unused processor cores and regulating the activity of the GPU as needed.
BERLIN: Qualcomm's developer tablet was on show at the company's IQ 2012 Berlin event on Monday.
V3 took the chance to test the Qualcomm developer tablet's Snapdragon processor against the Exynos quad-core chip used in Samsung's popular Galaxy Note 10.1.
On paper, the Note and Qualcomm development tablet are incredibly similar. Both devices run Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and house 10.1in screens.
Additionally, both the Note and the development tablet feature processors made by their parent companies. Specifically, the Note 10.1 features a Samsung-made 1.4GHz quad-core Exynos 4412 processor, while Qualcomm's development model packs a 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro.
This means comparing the two should be fair, with both featuring custom designed components.
To start its comparison, V3 tested both the Note and the development tablet using the Antutu and Quadrant benchmarking apps. On both occasions Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4 Pro demo unit came out on top.
Qualcomm's Snapdragon demo unit scored an impressive 138,888 on Antutu; the Note by comparison scored a still impressive 12,578.
With Quadrant's CPU, I/O and 3D graphics benchmark, the Qualcomm tablet scored 7,639, while Samsung's Galaxy Note tablet scored a less impressive 5,261.
This means that on paper the Qualcomm developer tablet is on paper one of the fastest we've ever seen, easily trumping most, if not all of the top end tablets currently available.
Interestingly though this increased power doesn't translate into a better user experience on Qualcomm's demo unit.
The Qualcomm tablet is by its nature a demo product and as such doesn't feature the same polished feel the Note does. The Snapdragon tablet's WXGA display is significantly less responsive than the Note's and doing basic things like navigating the display is cumbersome.
Additionally, the Qualcomm demo unit's 13MP camera didn't really live up to our expectations. While photos taken using the unit looked reasonable, they weren't as detailed as we'd expect. We're thinking this is due to a software oversight that stops the tablet taking full advantage of its 13MP sensor.
While these oversights can be forgiven on a demo unit, they would be unforgivable on a product released for purchase to the general public. Hopefully though these problems will be fixed by other manufacturers hoping to release products using the Snapdragon S4 Pro, letting the impressive processor really show off what it can do.
Check back with V3 later for further coverage of Qualcomm's IQ 2012 event.