People who have been closely following the smartphone industry in the last few years will be well aware that the new trend in this market is the dual-core processor. This is the latest phase of mobile technology and processing speed and we can soon be expecting even faster processors to grace mobile phones in the near future. The last phase though, belonged to the 1 GHz processors that came embedded as System On Chips (SoC) and there are still many phones out there that run these processors and are still doing very well in the market.
As the number of apps, the nature of apps and the hardware specifications of mobile handsets are quite similar in all major smartphones today, the real race is that between the processors these smartphones carry. Faster systems will always have an edge over rival products, with all other aspects being the same. Apple manufactures its own chipsets for their iPhones and iPads, but other Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) that have adopted Android have a few different options to pick from. Snapdragon and Hummingbird are two such 1 GHz processors that have graced the best mobile phones of the last year or so.
Snapdragon Processor Specs
Snapdragon is an SoC that is manufactured by Qualcomm, and this is based on the ARM Cortex-A8 architecture. The processor inside the Snapdragon chipset is termed 'Scorpion' and the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) that is embedded inside is known as 'Adreno'. Snapdragon chipsets were first seen in the market in the fourth quarter of 2008, and several new versions have subsequently been released. These chipsets are not just restricted to smartphones though, as even tablets and some netbooks have come embedded with a Snapdragon chipset.
Currently, there are 4 generations of Snapdragon chipsets in the market, and their clocking speeds range from 800 MHz to 1.5 GHz. Some new models even have the Snapdragon chipset embedded with a dual-core Scorpion processor, while the Adreno GPU has also been advancing at a steady rate. HTC is the smartphone manufacturer that has made the most use of the Snapdragon chipset, but other companies like Asus, Samsung, HP, Motorola, Acer, Sony Ericsson, Sharp, BlackBerry, Lenovo, Toshiba, Fujitsu, Kyocera and LG have also regularly adopted Snapdragon in their devices.
Hummingbird Processor Specs
In an attempt to keep up with Snapdragon, Samsung soon started manufacturing their own 1 GHz SoC's, and Hummingbird is the result of that endeavor. This SoC is also based on the ARM Cortex-A8 architecture, and the GPU embedded inside is the PowerVR SGX540. The first smartphone to house this SoC was the very successful Samsung Galaxy S, and soon many other devices manufactured by Samsung started being manufactured with Hummingbird as well. The device was released in the fourth quarter of 2009, and the clocking speeds it offers ranges from 1GHz to 1.6 GHz.
Comparing the Two
- Hummingbird uses 45nm ARM Cortex-A8 architecture with ARMv7 instruction set, which means that more transistors can fit on the chip and thus the performance is 5%-10% better than previous generations.
- Snapdragon uses 45nm architecture now, but this was not always the case. Their first devices used 65nm ARM Cortex-A8 architecture with ARMv7 instruction set. Their insistence to provide the Scorpion processor reduced the clock cycles, and hence the Hummingbird processors were faster.
- Hummingbird was initially better at power management since they provided higher clocked processors. Additionally, Hummingbird also provides better graphical output, better sound quality and better video encoding and decoding as well.
- Even when it came to graphics, the Hummingbird produced 90 million triangles per second, which easily surpassed the performance of the Snapdragon. This situation was soon rectified by Qualcomm though.
- The primary reason for which OEMs prefer Snapdragon however, is because they also provide cellular antennas and GPS chips on the chipset. This reduces the amount of space required and enables the whole device to be slimmer and lighter. Hence, OEMs are ready to sacrifice a little bit of the performance in order to make the device smaller and lighter.
To summarize, Snapdragon was the first to arrive on the scene as a 1 GHz SoC and then the Hummingbird came along and bettered the performance by offering faster clocking speeds and better graphical output. Snapdragon then realized they had problems and then corrected them, which is always a sign of a good product. More OEMs still prefer Snapdragon though, because of the additional features it offers. And as time has gone by, the clocking speeds of these chipsets have improved, the GPUs have evolved and the processors have gone from single-core to dual-core. Who makes the next move remains to be seen.