Earlier this year Qualcomm introduced a new product naming scheme to make it easier for customers and members of the press to more easily differentiate the various processors in their portfolio. The highest end product family, known as the S4, has been something we’ve known relatively little about, but that’s just changed thanks to a new whitepaper [PDF file] that Qualcomm has released detailing every awesome new feature the S4 family will bring to 2012 smartphones.
First, it’s going to be the company’s first 28 nanometer chip, meaning it’ll be incredibly tiny and consume far less power than today’s 45 nanometer processors. Everything on the market, from Apple’s A4/A5, to NVIDIA’s Tegra 2, to the TI OMAP4, is built on a 45 nanometer process. Samsung recently announced a 32 nanometer chip that’s slated to start sampling this quarter, but other than that, no one has announced anything in the sub 45 nanometer level. Rumors suggest Apple will go to 28 nanometer for the A6, which we expect to see in the third generation iPad by the end of Q2 2012.
Second, the Scorpion processor that Qualcomm has custom built is getting an update to something called Krait. According to Ananadtech, Qualcomm says that clock for clock their Krait cores are 30% faster than ARM’s Cortex A9 cores. We’ll of course have to wait until we’ve got smartphones in our hands that we can run benchmarks on to be able to enthusiastically support the claim. The slowest Krait core runs at 1.5 GHz, the fastest at 2.5 GHz, and you’ll be able to use them in single, dual, or quad core configurations.
Third, graphics are going to get a major boost with the new Adreno 225 GPU. Qualcomm says it’s 50% faster than the Adreno 220 that’s currently out and seen in such devices as the HTC Sensation and T-Mobile’s version of the Samsung Galaxy S II. They also say it’ll be faster than the GPU in Apple’s A5, which is all well and good, except that the A6 is expected to land at roughly the same time as the S4.
Fourth, there’s more connectivity in this chip than you can shake a stick at. There’s support for both flavors of LTE (FDD and TDD), 42 Mbps HSPA+, TD-SCDMA (the Chinese 3G), CDMA (from 1x Advanced all the way to EV-DO Rev. B), and of course GSM/GPRS/EDGE. It even supports all spectrum bands between 700 MHz and 2600 MHz. It’ll be up to handset vendors to support multiple band configurations however.
Fifth, don’t forget about local connectivity! The S4 will have integrated support for WiFi a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and GLONASS support, near field communication (NFC; finally!), and good old fashioned FM radio.
Phew, that was a lot. If you’re looking for a more indepth look at the S4, be sure to check out this article on Anandtech. It goes through things like the increased pipline depth, the new memory bus, and all that sort of low level to the metal details that chip geeks crave.