Bsquare announced an Android 4.2 Mobile Development Platform (MDP) based on Qualcomm’s new 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800 (MSM8974) SoC featuring four ARM Krait 400 CPU cores plus an Adreno 330 GPU. The Snapdragon 800 MDP is available in both 11.6-inch tablet and 4.3-inch smartphone versions, and features surround sound, USB 3.0, and 802.11ac WiFi for up to 1.3Gbps streaming rates.
The top-of-the-line Snapdragon 800 system-on-chip (SoC) is just now entering production, and will not appear in commercial products until mid-summer. It’s rumored to be headed for high-end Android “phablets” including a 5.9-inch HTC T6 and the Samsung Galaxy Note III.
Bsquare’s tablet & smartphone Snapdragon 800 MDPs
(click images to enlarge)
Snapdragon 800 basics
Designed to compete head-on with similarly 28nm, powerhouse SoCs like Nvidia’s quad-core Tegra 4 and Samsung’s eight-core Samsung Exynos 5 Octa Cortex-A7 and –A15 Big.Little combo SoC, the Snapdragon 800 is Qualcomm’s first High-K Metal gate silicon. Its Krait 400 core is similar to the Cortex-A15 designs found in the Tegra 4 and Exynos 5 Octa, delivering a faster L2 cache and clock (400MHz) compared to the quad-core 1.9GHz Snapdragon 600, which drives the North American version of the Samsung Galaxy S4. The Snapdragon 800 is claimed to be 75 percent faster than the older, widely adopted Snapdragon S4 Pro processor.
Snapdragon 800 functional blocks
(click image to enlarge)
The Snapdragon 800 is further supercharged with an Adreno 330 graphics processing unit (GPU) claimed to offer 50 percent better graphics performance than the Adreno 320. It maintains the Adreno 320’s FlexRender technology for dynamic switching between direct rendering and binning rendering, a technique said to improve performance and power efficiency. The Adreno 330 supports OpenGL ES 3.0, DirectX, OpenCL, and Renderscript Compute APIs in addition to FlexRender. The Snapdragon 800 also incorporates a 600MHz Hexagon v5 QDSP6 digital signal processor.
Despite all that performance, battery life is claimed to be improved, thanks to High Performance for Mobile (HPm) power management along with aSMP dynamic CPU power control, enabling the SoC to run different cores at varying clock speeds. Quick Charge 2.0 technology can charge up batteries 75 percent more quickly than previous Snapdragons, claims Qualcomm.
The Snapdragon 800 can drive up to 2560 x 2048-pixel displays and supports Miracast 1080p video and 4K HDTVs, says Qualcomm. Camera specs extend upward to a ridiculous 55-megapixels as well as stereoscopic 3D recording. The SoC integrates a 4G LTE “World Mode” cellular modem and supports interfaces including USB 3.0, Bluetooth 4.0, and the new 802.11ac WiFi technology (see farther below for more on 802.11ac).
MDP development platforms
Bsquare’s Snapdragon 800 MDPs (Mobile Development Platforms) are the latest in a line of Bsquare development kits designed for developing, testing, and demonstrating Android on Snapdragon processors. The MDPs are supported with a variety of additional tools and services, including Bsquare’s TestQuest automated testing solutions, engineering services, technical support, Bsquare Knowledge Base access, and MDP software updates.
The smartphone version has a 4.3-inch 720p display, while the tablet form-factor offers a monster 11.6-inch 1080p screen. According to the announcement, both of models support the Snapdragon 800’s UltraHD/4K video support via HDMI output, although the datasheet lists this feature only for the tablet. The kits are touted as being among the first mobile development platforms to include a combination of USB 3.0, 802.11ac WiFi, and streaming rates up to 1.3Gbps.
The tablet and phone versions share most features, including 12- and 2-megapixel cameras, both capable of 1080p video recording. They also offer surround sound playback, Bluetooth, NFC, GPS, fingerprint readers, and a variety of sensors. Bsquare did not list how much RAM or flash was included, nor the type of batteries used or whether the devices provide expected features like micro-SD or audio ports.
Specifications listed for Bsquare’s Snapdragon 800 MDPs, with differences noted for tablet and smartphone form-factors include:
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 (MSM8974) SoC:
- 4x 2.3GHz Krait 400 CPU cores
- Adreno 330 GPU
- 600MHz Hexagon v5 QDSP6
- Memory — LPDDR3 (amount unstated)
- Tablet — 11.6-inch 1080p
- Smartphone — 4.3-inch 720p
- Multitouch with haptics and active pen support
- UltraHD/4K external video via HDMI (possibly tablet only)
- 12-megapixel rear with flash
- 2-megapixel front
- 1080p @ 30fps video on both
- Surround sound playback
- Surround sound record (front cam only)
- Handset ANC with Fluence echo cancellation and noise suppression
- Headset with ANC support & beyond
- 4x mics for FluencePRO
- Ultrasound Gestures
- 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi (2.5/5GHz); streaming rates up to 1.3Gbps
- USB 3.0 port
- Sensors — fingerprint reader; 3D accelerometer; 3-axis gyro; 3-axis compass; ambient light, temperature, pressure, humidity sensors
- Other features — 30 min. free support; power profiling app for measurement-based optimization; optional Bsquare TestQuest test automation tools and services, UI, and app development; extended support
- Operating system — Android 4.2 pre-loaded
Sometimes dubbed 5G WiFi, 802.11ac has yet to be ratified, but is already reaching market. It’s already built into the Galaxy S4 and HTC One smartphones, via new Broadcom chips, and should be widely available in routers by the end of the year.
The new WiFi standard offers wider channels and more spatial streams, delivering theoretical transfer speeds claimed to be three times as fast as 802.11n. The 802.11ac technology is optimized for HD video streaming, and is also said to boost range somewhat.
The backward-compatible 802.11ac is designed to jettison support for 2.4GHz frequencies to concentrate solely on 5GHz, thereby reducing interference, but also potentially reducing the ability to transmit through walls. The 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac radio in the Bsquare MDPs, however, is said to support 2.4GHz as well as 5GHz, so this does not appear to be an iron-clad requirement.
Bsquare’s tablet and smartphone Snapdragon 800 MDPs are available now for $1099 and $799, respectively. More information may be found at Bsquare’s Snapdragon MDP page.