Qualcomm's quad-core chips to counter Intel's ultrabooks

Qualcomm says its quad-core Snapdragon processor will be used in thin and light laptops that rival ultrabooks and the Macbook Air

Qualcomm is preparing a quad-core version of its Snapdragon S4 chip for thin and light Windows 8 laptops, which the chip maker hopes will steal some thunder from Intel's second wave of ultrabooks due later this year.

The S4 chips will go into laptops that are thinner and lighter than Apple's MacBook Air or today's ultrabooks, according to Rob Chandhok, senior vice president at Qualcomm. Ultrabooks are being promoted by Intel as a new category of thin and light laptops.

"We think much lighter than what Intel calls an ultrabook," Chandhok said.

The lines between high-end smartphones, where Qualcomm's chips are normally found, and laptops has started to blur, Chandhok said. The S4 chips will enable smaller laptops with high-resolution screens, longer battery life and always-on connectivity, he said.

The chips are based on a core from U.K. chip design company ARM, and include an integrated modem and a graphics core capable of handling 3D graphics.

Just as Intel hopes to make microprocessors for smartphones, Qualcomm is trying to expand out of the smartphone market and into PCs. It has already shipped some prototype Windows 8 PCs with Snapdragon chips to developers. But Intel is moving against the ARM-based vendors by pouring millions of dollars into developing ultrabooks.

Qualcomm hopes Snapdragon laptops will be differentiated by their 4G connectivity and strong multimedia qualities, Chandhok said.

The S4 will be manufactured with a 28-nanometer process, improving power efficiency and performance compared to earlier Snapdragon chips, Chandhok said. While ARM chips often provide longer battery life, they generally pack less performance than Intel's Core processors.

Qualcomm is also thinking about 64-bit support on Snapdragon, but Chandhok couldn't reveal when such a chip would be released. Windows 8 will be a 64-bit OS, and ARM has already announced 64-bit support with its upcoming ARMv8 architecture.

Having a powerful Snapdragon chip with four CPU cores and multiple graphics cores will make a difference for Windows 8 devices, especially for applications like games, Chandhok said. Windows 8 can improve application performance by executing programs in parallel across multiple cores, and Qualcomm is working on compilers to parallelize program execution for everyday applications like browsers.

"There will be maturation on the software," Chandhok said.

Aside from makers of x86 chips, Qualcomm will compete with ARM-based chip makers Nvidia and Texas Instruments, which are also supplying chips for Windows 8 tablets. While many basic features will be similar, Qualcomm will try to differentiate its chips by developing software that plays to unique multimedia and cellular connectivity features on Snapdragon.

"In this day and age, the instruction set matters," Chandhok said.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Agam Shah

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?