Qualcomm’s Snapdragon SoC has been the star of the (Android) show for quite a while, but I think it’s becoming more and more apparent that HTC phones are starting to fall behind other phones like Motorola’s Droids or Samsung’s Galaxy S models.
Qualcomm seems reluctant to use the Cortex A9 architecture and instead prefers to push what is basically an improved Cortex A8 even further. I think this is a mistake because Cortex A9 will be more energy efficient by default and it will have better performance at lower clock frequency, which again means lower energy consumption.
But not only are they going to continue to develop this already old SoC platform, but they will launch their best SoC with a dual core 1.5 Ghz CPU at the end of 2011. By then we should already say Tegra 3 phones and Samsung Orion phones, which will both have significantly better overall performance than Qualcomm’s new chip, especially in graphics.
Graphics has been one of the weakest links of the Snapdragon SoC, and it seems it will continue to remain so. The upcoming 1.3 Ghz and dual core 1.2 Ghz SoC’s will have a GPU that is weaker than Samsung’s Hummingbird which was already released this summer. And I can only assume Tegra 2 is going to be much better than it, too.
But why is the GPU so important? A powerful GPU along with hardware acceleration for the OS and applications, can offer a buttery smooth UI without a hint of choppiness, better rendering for graphic stuff and images inside the browser, higher display resolution, and of course better gaming performance. Even Flash which will be hardware accelerated on the Tegra 2 platform for example, is going to have much better performance on Android phones because of better GPU’s.
A better GPU can also increase battery life because it can be used for media intensive apps and players, and since they are specialized cores to handle this, they will use less power than a CPU would.
The GPU is almost as important as the CPU, and yet – I would say because of HTC’s tight relationship with Qualcomm – we’ve been deprived for so long from a smooth UI on Android and great polished games in the Market.
If you want a great powerhouse phone, you must get one with a powerful GPU as well, not just a powerful CPU. In fact I predict that the battle in 2011 will not be over what phone has a faster CPU (most will have a dual core 1 Ghz Cortex A9 anyway – or a dual core Cortex A8-based Snapdragon 1.2 Ghz), but what phone will have best the best graphics performance.