Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 and Snapdragon 600 SoC unveiled

At CES 2013, Qualcomm used its keynote address to launch its new mobile chips: the Snapdragon 800 and Snapdragon 600

Qualcomm Snapdragon 800

After taking over from Microsoft as the opening keynote of CES, Qualcomm and its CEO, Dr Paul Jacobs, had big shoes to step into. However, CES choosing Qualcomm makes a lot of sense in many ways, and now was a perfect time for the newcomer to unveil its Snapdragon 800 and Snapdragon 600 system on a chip (SoC).

Although not a brand that's particularly well known to most consumers, Qualcomm makes a shed load of mobile processors that power everything from smartphones, such as the Nokia Lumia 920 and the Google Nexus 4, to wireless routers and the latest smart TVs. As Jacobs put it, Qualcomm is "at the heart of everything you do".

With mobile being the big growth area at the moment and smartphones and tablets becoming the main methods we use to access information and control our other devices, Qualcomm has a big role to play.

Jacobs soon unveiled the new range of Snapdragon SoCs, which will now face stiff competition from the Nvidia Tegra 4, which was also announced at CES 2013.

Qualcomm's new chips are designed to provide more power. The top-of-the range Snapdragon 800 has the new quad-core Krait 400 CPU with speeds of up to 2.3GHz, Adreno 330 GPU, Hexagon v5 DSP and integrated LTE 4G. According to the company, it provides 75 per cent increased processor performance over the previous chip, the Snapdragon S4 Pro. The Adreno 330 GPU, meanwhile, offers double the graphics performance of the previous chip and is more power efficient, too.

"The new GPU consumes about half the power of its predecessor, so gamers can play more and recharge less," said Jacobs.

The Snapdragon 600 is a slightly lower-spec chip, with a quad-core Krait 300 CPU with speeds of up to 1.9GHz, and the Adreno 320 GPU. Qualcomm says that the Snapdragon 600 has around 40 per cent more CPU performance than the old Snapdragon S4 Pro.

While more performance is always good to see, the chips needs it, as they're capable of playing Ultra HD (four times the resolution of 1080p) footage. Guillermo Del Toro was brought up on stage to demonstrate how a Snapdragon 800-powered tablet could stream new Ultra HD footage from Blade 2.

This is an important step forwards, as Ultra HD is the big event of CES 2013, with more and more manufacturers launching compatible TVs. However, footage is the sticking point at the moment, as it's simply too big to fit on traditional storage, such as Blu-ray discs. As a result, it's likely that the only way to get Ultra HD movies will be via a download service. Having a small box with a low-power CPU to playback films will make a lot of sense. Furthering this aim, the Qualcomm 800 can also handle full 7.1 sound, for that complete cinema experience.

Qualcomm has the Snapdragon 800 out for sampling at the moment, with devices expected to ship mid-2013. The Snapdragon 600 should start appearing in devices by the end of the year.

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