Qualcomm Announces Big Bird Approved Chipsets at CES

Qualcomm made an appearance at CES this week to unveil the next step past their successful Snapdragon S4 chipset, which was found in, among other things, the bulk of HTC’s and Nokia’s smartphone line-up from last year. The S4 was the main competitor to the highly touted quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor in the mobile world last year, and proved to be more than up to the task, despite, in its most commonly seen forms, being a dual-core processor.

This year, we’ll be seeing a numbering change to Qualcomm’s chipsets, headlined by the brand new Snapdragon 600 and 800 sets. Since these are chipsets, CPU, GPU, and memory are all included in what Qualcomm is offering. For the 800, that means a quad-core Krait 400 CPU (up to 2.3 GHz), a brand new Adreno 330 GPU, and 2×32 bit 800 MHz of LPDDR3 RAM. That last bit is a big part of what the new chipset is offering – the LP in LPDDR3 stands for low-power. That means the chipsets should be able to work harder using less power, which should (hopefully) translate into improved battery life for devices using the 800. Also in the top-of-the-line Snapdragon 800 set is support for 4G LTE connectivity, HD audio, and UltraHD. UltraHD is a new standard for resolution currently only applicable to televisions – specifically, those with resolutions of 3,840 x 2,160. That means that, in addition to seeing the 800 in highest-end smartphones and tablets, you’ll also be seeing it in a lot of new UltraHD smart TVs that will be coming to market next year and beyond. That support for UltraHD will be for both playback and capture, and it seems that 3D video capture will also be supported.

The Snapdragon 600 will also find its way into high end smartphones, especially those coming out in the first half of this year. The 600 still packs in quad-core power, though with a Krait 300 CPU, a slight step down from what will be in the 800 chipset. It’ll also have an Adreno 320 GPU (another slight step down) and, like the 800, will boast energy-saving LPDDR3 RAM. Qualcomm claims that the 600 features 40 percent improved performance over the S4, compared to a 75 percent increase seen in the 800 set. What that actually means, I’m guessing only Qualcomm knows, but I’m willing to take them at their word that these are going to be some seriously high-powered chipsets.

There will also be the lower-end Snapdragon 400 and 200 chipsets, which will come to market in mid to low-end devices sometime this year. Qualcomm is currently sampling the 600 and 800 chipsets. They expect the 600 to start coming with devices released in Q2 this year, while the 800 is pegged for devices released in the latter half of this year and beyond.

With Steve Ballmer, Maroon 5, and Big Bird all appearring on stage, Qualcomm’s press conference at CES was perhaps the most talked about at CES this year. So in case you missed it – you can check out the rebroadcast here.