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Quad-core SoC, LTE slug it out in the mobile arena

Posted: 01 Mar 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:LTE? quad-core? smartphones? modem?

As the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona comes to a close, it was evident that practically every mobile chip company rushed to announce new smartphone ICs with the mobile industry's two new essential features: quad-core and LTE modem.

Of course, not all quad-cores are equal. LTE modems, too, come in different flavours. Every modem chip is at a different stage in operators' certification processes, a hurdle that every chip vendor needs to clear before claiming a design win.

Aside from Qualcomm which detailed its Snapdragon 600 and 800 and announced it during International Consumer Electronics Show, and Broadcom which discussed last week what the company claims to be smallest 4G-LTE advanced modem chip, both Nvidia and Marvell are competing for the market's attention.

Nvidia unveiled the Tegra 4i last week, a new member of the Tegra 4 family. It's an application processor integrated with LTE processor on the same die. (Read full story here.)

Will Strauss, president of Forward Concepts, called it a "stunner," due to a number of advanced features integrated in it. The 4i is based on four Cortex-A9 (2.3GHz) CPUs jointly developed with ARM, featuring a fifth "battery saver" core. It also comes with 60 GPU cores and a version of the i500 LTE modem optimised for integration.

Nvidia's senior vice president, Phillip Carmack, wrote in his blog at Nvidia's website, "Tegra 4i will bring super phone capabilities to the mainstream smartphone market, and there will be nothing on the market like it."

Carmack probably isn't just saying that. With Tegra 4i, Nvida is firmly setting its sights on Qualcomm. Nvidia's spokesman claims that Tegra 4i "is significantly faster yet half the size of its nearest competitor, Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800." If true, that sets a new benchmark.

Meanwhile, Marvell rolled out an LTE version of the company's quad-core ARM Cortex-A7-based world-mode platform. (See Marvell releases 3G, quad-core mobile SoC.)Compared to Nvidia's Tegra 4i (a quad-core CPU based on ARM's most efficient corethe R4 Cortex-A9 CPUplus a fifth battery saver core), Marvell's apps processor appears decidedly modest. However, Marvell is emphasizing its own LTE modem, calling it "the industry's most advanced modem solution" that features support for field-proven five-mode cellular modems, including LTE TDD and FDD, HSPA+, TD-HSPA+ and EDGE.

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