At CES 2014, Qualcomm has made a brace of announcements targeting new markets for the company’s system-on-a-chip (SoC) products. The Snapdragon 602 is designed to drop into the vehicles of 2014 and beyond, while the Snapdragon 802 targets the next generation of smart TVs and 4K displays.
This is part of Qualcomm’s own efforts to win space in the “Internet of Things,” and it dovetails with two of the largest sectors at CES this year: Cars and televisions.
Both of these chips are based on technology that’s already widely established in the consumer market. The Snapdragon 802 is a TV application processor with four of Qualcomm’s Krait-class cores, a 1.8GHz clock speed, and the DX9.3-capable Adreno 330 GPU.
Qualcomm is also talking up the image quality of its Hollywood Quality Video (HQV) upconverter, which it claims can deliver content “at a level approaching Ultra HD,” also known (erroneously) as 4K. The 802 can also stream multiple 1080p video streams simultaneously, or handle a video conferencing call on one section of the display while gaming or running video on the other.
The Snapdragon 802 includes an integrated DSP for Dolby Digital and DTS, with the option to integrate custom audio or gesture controls in case OEMs feel like torturing their customers in new and interesting ways with upcoming models.
Interestingly, heterogeneous computing gets a bit of a nod here – the PR document states that: “Qualcomm Technologies’ heterogeneous compute architecture also plays a role in ensuring that these various components are used as efficiently as possible, individually and together, to enable high performance, concurrent use cases within the power and thermal budgets of consumer electronics devices.”
As far as we know, however, the Snapdragon 802 doesn’t integrate any additional HSA capabilities to deliver anything like the HSA options AMD has promised for Kaveri.
Driving the Snapdragon
Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 602A is a slightly weaker part that’s been hardened and certified for the automotive market. Here, Qualcomm will take on a host of competitors, including Nvidia and Texas Instruments. The latter sniped a major deal with Audi away from Nvidia in late 2012. Other auto manufacturers have deals with companies like Freescale, and Apple is rumoured to be working on its own custom solution with an unidentified vendor or vendors.
The Snapdragon 602A will offer an 802.11ac modem, Bluetooth LE 4.0, an Adreno 320 GPU, and integrated Gobi 9x15 multimode 3G/4G-LTE modem in a single package. Dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4GHz and 5GHz) is also implemented, as is support for up to eight simultaneously streaming devices.
Unlike the television, which hasn’t been fundamentally transformed by the addition of Wi-Fi or other capabilities (at least not yet), the idea of a vehicle as a rolling hotspot, serving up personalised content to every screen in the vehicle, is something else entirely. Hands-free technology is a major play here, and Qualcomm cites support for multiple types of gesture and voice recognition.
Both of these chips are designed to pack enough firepower for gaming and other high-end media functions, though the use cases are extremely different. When Ford talked about the evolution of the MyFord Touch system back in 2012, the company’s director of electronics research Jim Buczkowski emphasised just how different the measured pace of automotive testing is from the rapid-fire mobile world. MyFord Touch hasn’t exactly set the world on fire as far as UI design is concerned, but meshing the needs of an auto manufacturer into mobile development has been a slow, cautious process.
Qualcomm expects TVs with Snapdragon 802 to debut by the end of 2014, and it hasn’t yet announced any new vehicle partners. The company’s next-generation of mobile parts (Snapdragon 410 and 805) will still debut later this year, with a GPU that can run DX11 and a new 20nm 64-bit ARM core for the midrange market.