Samsung Intros Orion Dual Core ARM Mobile Processor - InformationWeek

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Samsung Intros Orion Dual Core ARM Mobile Processor

Qualcomm's Snapdragon and Nvidia's Tegra 2 are the primary competition for the 1GHz Cortex A9-based application processor for smartphones and tablets.

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Samsung Electronics has introduced a dual-core ARM processor for smartphones and tablet-style computers that will compete against Qualcomm's Snapdragon and Nvidia's Tegra 2. Samsung launched a 1GHz ARM Cortex A9-based dual-core application processor, codenamed Orion on Monday. The company introduced the new chip at the Samsung Mobile Solutions Forum in Taipei, Taiwan.

Orion is aimed at tablets and smartphones. While the latter is the fastest growing mobile-phone category today, the former is an emerging technology best represented by Apple's iPad. Apple sold more than 3 million iPads in the first 80 days after its launch in late April. Computer makers that have introduced, or plan to introduce, competing tablets include Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Samsung, Lenovo and Asus.

Samsung's latest processor includes two A9 cores, each with 32 KB of data cache and a 32 KB instruction cache. In addition, the processor has 1 MB of L2 cache for optimizing CPU performance and a video encoder/decoder that supports 30 frames per second of full high-definition 1080p resolution. The company claims the latest chip delivers five times better 3D graphics performance than Samsung's previous generation of processors.

The latest product reflects how chipmakers are scrambling to meet the increasing power demands for smartphones, and the expected demand of tablets. Entertainment is a major component for both mobile devices, which drives the need for faster chips that can power video and games.

Qualcomm in June started releasing to computer manufacturers its first dual-core Snapdragon chipset. The processor has a clock speed of 1.2 GHz and is integrated with a graphics processor with 3D/2D acceleration engines and a 1080p video encoder/decoder. Manufacturers that have committed to making Snapdragon-powered devices include Acer, Dell, HP, HTC, Huawei and Lenovo.

Nvidia's Tegra 2 is also a dual-Core ARM Cortex A9 processor with a clock speed of up to 1 GHz. Like its competitors, the chip includes several co-processors to accelerate 2D and 3D playback and for 1080p video encoding/decoding. LG on Monday said it would use Tegra 2 in its upcoming Optimus smartphones and tablets.

While ARM-based processors dominate the smartphone market today, Intel is moving quickly to tailor its x86-based Atom processor for the devices. Atom dominates the netbook category, but has been considered too power hungry for smaller devices.

In May, Intel introduced the Z6 family of Atom processors that the chipmaker claimed was ready for smartphones. The new product supports up to 1.5 GHz for high-end smartphones and up to 1.9 GHz for tablets. Major smartphone makers have yet to announce products using the new chips.

Meanwhile, Samsung introduced its Galaxy Tab this month. The company expects to sell 10 million of the tablets by the third quarter of next year. Samsung is expected to use Orion in upcoming products, including its tablets and smartphones.

In other Samsung news, the company at its Taipei forum also introduced 8 GB and 16 GB MoviNAND embedded memory chips for smartphones. The new products support the latest embedded MultiMediaCard interface specification. Samsung started production of the 8 GB MoviNAND in late July, and plans to start producing the latest 32 GB version this month.


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