Thursday, March 19, 2015

Qualcomm releases new variant of Snapdragon 410 that supports ARMv8, targeting tablets and other applications

Qualcomm recently made announcements of products and reference designs based on the APQ8016 SoC, a new modem-less quad-core Cortex-A53-based SoC branded as Snapdragon 410. The chip is targeted at IoT applications, development boards and probably also Wi-Fi-only tablets, supporting Linux, Android and Windows 10. Although branded as Snapdragon 410, the chip is a new design that is likely to fix most of the performance deficiencies of the first-generation MSM8916 Snapdragon 410 SoC that has been targeted at smartphones. For example, the original Snapdragon 410 SoC appears not to support ARMv8 at all, while the new chip is clearly targeted at 64-bit platforms.

Development board released

Qualcomm recently announced the DragonBoard 410c, a development board with support for Linux and Android. It features a quad-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A53 processor with Adreno 306 GPU, 533 MHZ LPDDR2/LPDDR3 SDRAM, HDMI output and several I/O interfaces. The HDMI output is limited to 30fps at 1080p.

The board is designed to compatible with the 96Boards initiative from Linaro, the non-profit engineering organization developing open source software for the ARM architecture.

With 64-bit support and a maximum clock speed of 1.2 GHz, the APQ8016 SoC that is used on the board most likely uses a more recent version of the Cortex-A53 core than the original Snapdragon 410 processor for smartphones, while being manufactured using the same 28LP process at TSMC.

New SoC probably targets tablets as volume driver

There are indications that the new chip will be used in Wi-Fi-only tablets, such as recently announced Samsung Galaxy Tab A series. There have also been indications that Qualcomm is stepping up its efforts to target Chinese tablet manufacturers.

Qualcomm and MediaTek support mainline Linux kernel with open-source drivers for selected SoCs

Whereas in the past major smartphone SoC companies kept their closed-source drivers separate from the open-source Linux community, more recently companies such as Qualcomm and MediaTek have started releasing open source contributions for the Linux kernel to support selected SoC products. Both companies have also recently joined Linaro, the engineering organization developing open source software for the ARM architecture.

For both companies, the SoCs supported in the mainline Linux kernel are applications processors without an integrated modem. Qualcomm is supporting the APQ8016 mentioned above while MediaTek has contributed code for the MT8173 tablet processor.

Sources: Qualcomm (Dragonboard announcement), Qualcomm (Windows 10 IoT platform announcement), CNXSoft (DragonBoard 410c article)

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