Qualcomm's lower-end chips with OpenGL ES 2.0 and Scorpion CPU

Sunday 15th February 2009, 06:40:00 PM, written by Arun

Qualcomm has announced new chips that integrate their proprietary Scorpion CPU (ala Cortex-A8) and ATI's OpenGL ES 2.0 GPU (which they now own). They're on TSMC's 45nm process, but unlike some of their other chips they do not integrate RF. That is, if the other ones did in the first place.

The exciting part of this is obviously that it's a big step in the direction of making superscalar CPUs and OpenGL ES 2.0 GPUs more mainstream in the handheld market, although these chips are not likely to be extremely cheap either given that the Scorpion CPU is quite expensive (larger than the Cortex-A8, performance between the A8 and the A9 apparently) and they also integrate things like 21 to 42Mbps HSPA+.

It is unclear what is the implementation of ATI's OpenGL ES 2.0 IP in these chips; it is likely to be similar to Snapdragon2 (which is focused towards netbooks and has a dual-core Scorpion CPU) but there are no details as to what that actually looks like. Both Snapdragon and MSM7850 had a single-pipeline variant (with 1 TMU, 1 ROP, a shader core with 6 ALUs, etc.) but perhaps that has changed by now, since newer variants of mini-Xenos were supposed to be more flexible and efficient at higher pipeline counts.

As we said in the introductory paragraph, this news makes it unclear whether Qualcomm's so-said 'single chip solutions' on 45nm were really single chip. Back in the 65nm era, their so-called single chips really had 2 (if not 3) chips; for example, the QSC6270 was really a multi-chip package with a MSM6246 and RF/analogue chip or chips. Since QTR8610 integrates 3G RF, Bluetooth, GPS and audio codecs, it would be tempting to say that their previous 45nm single-chips were simply MCPs with a similar (although not identical) analogue chip.

In itself, this doesn't really matter a lot. This kind of thing matters more in the low-end. However, Qualcomm has often seemed to lag behind in terms of 'digitizing' RF/analogue circuitry, and their rapid announcement of 45nm single-chip solutions made it seem as if they had suddenly caught up on everybody. Now, it's harder to say for sure; if they already had the RF blocks to integrate on 45nm, why go back to a multi-chip solution in devices that aren't even very high-end? Because that integrated RF really wasn't that good? That's possible, but it would be even more bizarre. Who knows at this point... We'll see what we can find out.

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qualcomm ± amd, mini-xenos, 45nm