For most of the past year, when we thought of a fast mobile processor, our minds generally tended to wander toward the Snapdragon family of chipsets from Qualcomm. Usually clocked at 1GHz and using the company's own Scorpion core (similar to the ARM's Cortex-A8 reference design), the chip has long held the mobile performance crown in the hearts and minds of consumers. But these days, the truth is that Snapdragon is not the only game in town, with competitors such as the current generation of TI OMAP chips, Apple's A4, and Samsung's Hummingbird processor going toe-to-toe with Qualcomm's finest and in some cases surpassing it, such as in graphics performance.
One of those companies, Texas Instruments, is now preparing to raise the bar again with the unveiling of its astonishing next-generation multi-core TI OMAP4440 processor. Sweeping aside virtually all other chipsets we have seen to date (on paper), at the heart of the OMAP4440 is a 1.5GHz dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor, but that's only the start of the innovative design. Joining the Cortex-A9s are dual ARM Cortex-M3 processor cores, which are efficient low power consumption microcontrollers that are designed to handle less resource intensive tasks and background services, resulting in lower power consumption and improved battery life.
TI has some bold performance claims to go with the very impressive technical information, boasting about 3D graphics and full HD video playback including support for 1080p video at 60 frames per second and 3D stereoscopic HD video. Compared to the company's previous top of the line OMAP4430 chip, 1080p video playback performance is said to be doubled, with graphics performance from the PowerVR SGX540 1.25 times faster and web page loading times being 30% faster. The chip will also be able to handle HD video conferencing and simultaneously shoot video from two 12MP cameras!
Set for use in multimedia heavy devices including smartphones, MIDs, and tablets, the TI OMAP4440 is looking like a potential big leap forward in chip design and performance. Other leading and upcoming processors such as the nVidia Tegra 250 and next generation dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragons are also set to use powerful primary processors, but the OMAP4440 is the first chipset I have come across where multiple cores of varying performance and energy consumption are combined into a single more scalable design that can provide the performance when required, and really scale back when it isn't needed.[Liliputing]