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Motorola X8 SoC fuels Droid Maxx, Ultra, Mini phones

Jul 25, 2013  |  Eric Brown
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Google’s Motorola subsidiary has modified a dual-core Snapdragon S4 into an 8-core, 1.7GHz part called the X8, which offers four GPUs plus two coprocessors designed to enable always-on voice access to Google Now. The Motorola X8 will appear in Verizon’s Motorola Droid Maxx, Droid Ultra, and Droid Mini smartphones, now on presale, which feature Android 4.2.2, 1280 x 780 displays, and up to two-day battery life.

The new trio of Motorola Droid Android phones announced earlier this week — the Droid Ultra, Droid Maxx, and Droid Mini — did not break too much new ground. For that, we await the imminent unveiling of the Moto X. They did offer at least one interesting twist: an X8 system-on-chip designed by Motorola Mobility itself.

The Google subsidiary, which has previously used SoCs from third parties like Texas Instruments in its Droid phones, has designed its own Android-specific custom SoC based on Qualcomm’s Krait cores, according to an ExtremeTech report. Meanwhile, an AndroidAuthority report with similar information added an update that linked to a Tweet from an AnandTech reporter saying the Motorola X8 was based specifically on the Snapdragon S4 Pro 8960. Most likely, Qualcomm manufactured the SoC itself.

Like the S4 Pro, the Motorola X8 is based on dual Cortex-A9 cores clocked at 1.7GHz. Yet, the X8 also provides a quad-core 400MHz GPU (probably based on the Adreno 320), and specialized coprocessors for natural language and contextual computing. The coprocessors are specifically designed for optimizing always-on technologies for Android’s Siri-like, voice-enabled Google Now feature.

The contextual computing processor (CCP) processes sensor data and uses it in the always-on display features of the new Droids, says ExtremeTech. The local natural language processor (L-NLP) monitors microphone input and noise cancellation, and enables speech recognition.

The new Droid phones are said to enable Google Now simply by saying “Okay, Google Now,” without requiring that users press a button or make a gesture. In essence, the coprocessors are offloading Google Now voice processing from Google’s cloud servers, potentially extending battery life in the process. In addition to these features, the CCP is also said to activate the Droids’ cameras by shaking the phone twice, according to AndroidAuthority

If proven popular, the features give Google a key differentiating feature. Yet, depending on how the support is handled in Android, it could also revive fears that Google’s acquisition of Motorola gives it an unfair advantage in the mobile device business. In any case, as ExtremeTech notes, “With Google backing Motorola’s efforts, [the X8] could even affect how Android itself is developed.”
 

Droid Maxx, Ultra, and Mini

We should learn more about the Motorola X8 when the Droid Maxx and Droid Ultra ship on Aug. 20, followed by the Droid Mini on Aug. 29. All three devices are available now for presale at Verizon starting for $300, $200, and $100 respectively.

All the new Droids run Android 4.2.2 on an X8 processor with 2GB of RAM. They feature 1280 x 720-pixel displays and have 10- and 2-megapixel cameras.




Droid Maxx and Mini (top) and Ultra (bottom)
(click images to enlarge)

 

The main differences are in screen size, with the Droid Maxx and Ultra sporting a 5-inch display, and the Mini dropping to 4.3 inches. The Ultra has 32GB of internal storage vs. 16GB apiece for the Ultra and Mini. The Ultra stands out by adding an AMOLED display and offering the thinnest profile of the bunch, measuring a sleek 7.18mm.

The Maxx has a 3500mAh battery for a claimed 48 hours of mixed usage, while the Ultra and Mini offer 2130mAh and 2000mAh power packs respectively, with both rated at 28 hours. All three devices have the usual wireless and sensor features, including NFC and Bluetooth 4.0, and the Maxx and Ultra also offer wireless charging.

The Motorola Droid Maxx, Droid Ultra, and Droid Mini are available now for presale at Verizon starting for $300, $200, and $100 respectively. More information may be found at Verizon’s Droid smartphone site, as well as at Motorola’s product page.
 

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