Qualcomm aims Snapdragon 800 chips at 'premium' phones and tablets

Qualcomm says its new flagship Snapdragon processors will give a big performance leap over their predecessors

Qualcomm's keynote at the International CES was packed with big names and even a Big Bird, but CEO Paul Jacobs' focus was on something much smaller -- a new family of processors aimed at high-end smartphones and tablets.

The Snapdragon 800 series will appear in "premium" mobile devices in the second half of the year and give up to a 75 percent performance boost over Qualcomm's current Snapdragon S4 chips, Jacobs said.

The 800 series will be manufactured on a 28 nanometer process, allowing it to consume "half the power of its predecessor," according to Jacobs. The nanometer figure refers to the size of circuits etched onto the chips, and smaller transistors can run faster and consume less power.

"This little chip is going to make a big impact," Jacobs said, calling it "the most advanced wireless processor ever built."

The chips include a quad-core CPU, known as the Krait 400, with each core running at up to 2.3Ghz, Qualcomm said. It has a new Adreno 330 GPU and integrates a 4G LTE modem for data rates of up to 150M bps, as well as the new 802.11ac WiFi standard.

All those numbers should add up to a capable chip. Mobile devices will be able to playback and record UltraHD video and support display resolutions of up to 2560x2048 pixels, Qualcomm said. The chips also provide "console quality gaming" on a handheld device, Jacobs said.

While the 800 series is for "premium" devices, Qualcomm also introduced the Snapdragon 600 series, which it says offers a 40 percent performance boost over the S4 Pro and is aimed at "high-end" devices. The 600 series chips have a Krait 300 quad-core CPU with core speeds up to 1.9GHz. Those chips are due in devices in the second quarter, sooner than the 800 series chips.

The new processors will compete with Nvidia's Tegra 4 chip, Samsung's Exynos 5 and Apple's A5 and A5X, used in its iPhone and iPad. Intel is also developing more powerful low power chips, and announced its first quad-core Atom chip earlier Monday.

James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's e-mail address is james_niccolai@idg.com

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