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Qualcomm brings quad-core to the mainstream

Releases two Snapdragon models using 28nm process to reduce cost, while mobile growth propels it to world number three in chips


Published: 5 December, 2012

READ MORE: Qualcomm | Processor | HSDPA

Qualcomm was more cautious than rivals like Nvidia about bringing quad-core processors to smartphones, arguing that a well designed dual-core chip could produce similar performance within the power constraints of a mobile gadget. However, it is now fully committed to four-core platforms, and its two latest Snapdragon designs aim to bring this level of performance to the mainstream market, with its eyes on China in particular.

The new integrated processor/baseband offerings - dubbed MSM8226 and MSM8626 - the Snapdragon four-core CPU and 3G connectivity. They will support features which are increasingly common in smartphones, such as 1080p HD video and cameras up to 13-megapixels and will appear in devices by mid-2013.

The chips will be made using the 28nm process - which caused Qualcomm problems earlier in the year when its main foundry, TSMC, failed to achieve the required volumes and the US firm had to look elsewhere for capacity. Those issues seem to be past now, and the lower power and size of 28nm is being fully harnessed to reduce chip costs and bring quad-core into the mainstream.

Although there is not yet a version for China Mobile's TD-SCDMA network, Qualcomm particularly highlighted support for the other Chinese carriers' HSPA and CDMA2000 3G bands.

According to the latest figures from chip research firm IHS iSuppli, the overall semiconductor market will shrink by 2.3% in 2012, but Qualcomm will end the year in third position globally, after Intel and Samsung, with 27% year-on-year revenue growth thanks to the focus on the expanding mobile space. By contrast, seven of the top 10 chip suppliers, especially those heavily dependent on stagnant sectors like PCs, will suffer a revenue drop in 2012. Wireless is the only chip segment expected to grow this year, but at a lower overall rate than Qualcomm - 7.7%, predicts iSuppli.

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